Saturday, April 19, 2008

About Joyce’s Paralysis II

Even though Dubliners is written in English language, its author’s voice is rather multilingual than monolingual, since his characters speak their own languages.

The language defines the very quality of their living. Mr. Power of “Grace” finds himself surprised when he hears the way Mr. Kernan’s children talk: “He was surprised at their manners and at their accents and his brow grew thoughtful.” Mr. Kernan’s decline is accentuated by the low-class accents of his children.

In another story “Two Gallants”, Joyce uses the language again, not just to depict the lives of characters, but to define the quality of those lives through the language itself. Since Dublin is the city of paralysis and death, that is why, its characters speak lifeless language:

“One said that he had seen Mac an hour before in Westmoreland Street. At this Lenehan said that he had been with Mac the night before in Egan’s. The young man who had seen Mac in Westmoreland street asked was it true that Mac won a bit over a billiards match. Lenehan did not know: he said that Holohan had stood them drinks Egan’s.”


In this book Joyce still uses language to create his “dear, dirty Dublin” anew.

How does Joyce forge his vision of fallen and paralyzed humanity? In A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man – Stephen Dedalus talks about wholeness, harmony and radiance as requirement for any work of art. Dubliners is the embodiment of Dedalus’s art theory. Each of the stories itself and all of the stories together are composed with tremendous care. Everything has its proper functional place. Ezra Pound praises Joyce’s clear and hard prose: “He carefully avoids telling you a lot that you don’t want to know”.

Some details may seem casually introduced but there is no such a thing that could be called accidental. Every resemblance to any real persons or incidents is nothing less but intentional.

The most pervasive and reoccurring theme throughout the book is paralysis. Joyce provided excellent statements of his intention: “My intention was to write a chapter of moral history of my country and I choose Dublin for the scene because city seemed to me to be the centre of paralysis.”

Here is the passage from “The Sisters.”

Every night as I gazed up the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strange in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and look upon its deadly work.

I the last of the stories “The Dead” – Joyce again defines paralysis as “some being” but this time the small boy is grown up, and he is no ore nameless, his name is Gabriel Conroy and this time “being” is coming after him:

...at that time when he hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague world.

It seems that with a last story Joyce has come to the same beginning, and a circle is closed. There are many traits of circular movement here. In “After the Race” cars move in laps; Lenehan of “The Two Gallants” spends all evening wandering through the streets of Dublin, if his walk were to be traced on the ma of Dublin, it would show that it has the shape of the ring, there is no beginning and no end. The nameless boy of “An Encounter” says about a weird man he has encountered: “His mind was slowly circling round and round in the same orbit.”

Jimmy, the horse in “The Dead”, is used for the circular labor of driving a mill in a glue factory. One day he is brought to city by his master, and “everything went on beautifully until Johnny came in sight of King Bill’s statue; and whether he fell in love with the horse King Bill sits on or whether he thought he was back in the mill, anyhow he began to walk around the statue.”

As if his Dubliners were doomed to take those vicious circles; moving but yet not going anywhere.

About Joyce’s Paralysis I

About Joyce’s Paralysis III

About Joyce’s Paralysis IV

Notice: From now on the installments of my prose work (a novel maybe) under the working title of - I wouldn't recommend this (with more than 25ooo words already) - are available to subscribers only.

.... I started thinking about thousands of years old families wiped out forever by anger and cold ignorance, and about their hidden traces in my own DNA, and about how much the strength of the vanished has got to do with who we are; and about what had happened to each of those women from whom I had parted company and whose life then went into decline; about a supreme being the girls had referred to earlier – and all the physical evidence of chaos available to us; and also about what other people will always see as impenetrable in people like us, sitting at this table, and that they will never have access to – an ugly scar from the flame of history that burned too close to our faces, too recent, too savage, casting a special kind of shadow blurring our view but at the same time giving us an unrelenting advantage – in my case the beautiful handicap of a life lived in permanent anticipation of the chance of being healed. As though my only job in life has been to keep my balance on the narrow rope, hoping that someone like her would find that cool, really cool. Someone that I dared imagine might be her. And hoping that the genes responsible for all this, the palpable genes countless generations have tried to deform and degrade, would miraculously start becoming stronger, day by day. And that other things and thoughts would relentlessly emerge, seemingly sufficient, and cover the rest, like a thick layer of snow, covering over whatever had been there in the first place.....


Thanks to Kindle Affair, the most recent follower of this blog on Twitter.

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