Comparing the Women in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses

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Characterization of Women in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses

Joyce's depiction of women is characterized by a high degree of literary self-consciousness, perhaps even more so than in the rest of his work. The self-consciousness emerges as an awareness of both genre and linguistic expectations. contrasting highly self-conscious, isolated literary men (or men with literary aspirations) with women who follow more romantic models, even stereotypes. In Dubliners, Joyce utilizes a clichéd story of doomed love ending in death-physical or spiritual-in "A Painful Case" and "The Dead." The former holds far more to these conventions and can be read as a precursor to the more sophisticated techniques
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"A Painful Case" is built on clichés. The story of a misanthropic bachelor who meets an emotionally frustrated wife, develops a bond, then recoils at intimacy could not be more formulaic; she even dies of "sudden failure of the heart's action" (114). The irony is clear-the suddenness really took place four years earlier. Joyce wrote Dubliners to appeal to both a mass audience and scholars, and "A Painful Case" seems particularly driven to the popular reader and, with its tale of unrequited love, to female readers. James Duffy is skeptical and irritated by exactly this kind of bland, superficial writing: "She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers, incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?" (111) Joyce both launches into self-criticism and evades it; by critiquing the method he employs, he demonstrates a self-awareness that lifts his work beyond this "middle class" production. Duffy, too, practices this self-awareness in conjunction with Joyce. At the end of a token biographical paragraph, all delivered in the third-person past tense, we learn this tidbit: "He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a
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