Fragments of A Painful Case and Paper Pills

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Fragments of "A Painful Case" and "Paper Pills"

Although James Joyce and Sherwood Anderson situate their subjects in very different milieux (Joyce's in Dublin; Anderson's in Winesburg, Ohio), two of their subjects speak the same language of idiosyncrasy. In Joyce's "A Painful Case," Mr. Duffy keeps on his desk "a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin. In these sheets a sentence was inscribed from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet" (Joyce 103). In Anderson's "Paper Pills," Dr. Reefy records his thoughts on "scraps of paper that became hard balls and were thrown away" (Anderson 36). These scribbled bits of subjectivity offer
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Mrs. Sinico becomes a willing listener to the narrative of Duffy's life, which had always "rolled out evenly -- an adventureless tale" (105); he categorizes her as "his confessor." With "careful scorn" he denies to her that he writes down his thoughts, but he does begin to share them with her. The trope of the confessional is an interesting one because it implies a guarded opening of one's nature, where a screen of distance and difference is always interposed between the speaker and listener. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce captures the simultaneity of self-disclosure and physical separation in the image of the confessional: "The slide clicked back and [Stephen's] heart bounded in his chest. The face of an old priest was at the grating, averted from him, leaning upon a hand" (143). The confessional shows the division between subject and other while suggesting their potential reconciliation through the subject's confidence and contrition.

Mrs. Sinico draws Duffy closer to the moment of reconciliation where he may cease to live "at a little distance from his own body" (104) and from the society that surrounds him. She offers him a medium where he may thrive: "her companionship was like warm soil about an exotic...This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges of his character, emotionalised his mental life" (107). This "warm soil" and the emotions it may evoke, alternatively motherly and nurturing or sexually

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