Two James Joyce's Short Stories Review Essay


Dubliners is a collection of short stories by James Joyce. In this compellation, there are similarities between characters. Two stories that had similar characters were “The Sisters” and “An Encounter.” In these stories, Joyce dealt with the point of view of the “child.” This means that the descriptions in his writing were innocent. For example, in “An Encounter”, the old man speaking to the boys excuses himself and walks away. One of the boys exclaims, “I say! Look what he’s doing! I say… He’s a queer old josser!” It is never said what the old man was doing, the narrator remains quiet while his friend is the one who comments on the old mans mischievous behavior.

“The Sisters” is a story narrated by a young boy reflecting on the death of his friend Father Flynn. Knowing that Flynn was very ill, the boy would pass by his residents to see if the two candles proclaiming Flynn’s death were lit. When he returns home one day he finds his uncle has come to tell him of the bad news. At this point Joyce shows another side of the “child” point of view. When the uncle tells the boy about the death of Father Flynn, the boy remains quiet and doesn’t look up at any of the adults. Unlike “An Encounter” this is not an innocent thing the boy is doing. The boy’s silent reaction is a sign of guilt because the he felt responsible for Father Flynn’s death since he broke his chalice. At the funeral, the close friends of Father Flynn sat around and began to talk about the good times. After saying such nice things about Father Flynn, the adults tone soon changes. All of the adults begin to say how Father Flynn was crazy and would constantly laugh to himself. Joyce differentiates the child innocence from the rude and straightforward comments the adults make. I found this to be interesting because the narrator remains very quiet throughout the adult’s complaints, the narrator is absorbing all the vindictive things the adults are saying and it is tainting him.

“An Encounter” is also narrated by a boy, the boy and his friend go on an adventure to the Pigeon House. The boys cut school and head off on their adventure. On their adventure, the boys decide to rest in an open field. Their rest is soon disrupted when a creepy old man comes and sits with them. He begins to tell the boys stories and tries to fit in with the “youngsters.” The old man speaks very openly about young girls and fooling around with them, making the boys feel uncomfortable. After a while the old man gets up and walks away, however, when he returns his tone toward women begins to change. This is similar to how the adult’s view of Father Flynn changed in “The Sisters.” The old man tells the boys that if he ever sees them messing around with girls he would beat them.

Joyce portrays the adults of Dublin as polluters of the children’s young minds. None of the adults think before they speak, this leads to poor judgment and eventually a domino effect of people saying horrible things about each other. In both “The Sisters” and “An Encounter” the adult is far from the ideal role model. Joyce is able to capture the child innocence in his narrators for these stories. In my opinion, the characters in Dubliners are where Joyce shows his most compelling descriptions.

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