Essay on Male and Female Paralysis in James Joyce's Dubliners

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Male and Female Paralysis in Dubliners

Critics widely recognized that each story within James Joyce’s Dubliners contains a theme of paralysis. In fact, Joyce himself wrote, “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis” (Joyce, letter to Grant Richards, 5 May 1906). Contained in this moral history called Dubliners are twelve stories that deal with the paralysis of a central male character and only four that deal with so called paralysis within a central female character. It could be said that Joyce did this merely because he is a male, therefore could write the character better. However, Joyce writes female characters
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She asks him if he is going to the bazaar called Araby, and he replies that if he goes he will bring something back for her. His fantasy finally has a tangible yet desperate hold, and his obsession gets even worse: “I could not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life, which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play” (Joyce 22). This fixation rules his young life, and he desires to break into the adult world in order for the girl to take him seriously. Araby represents his chance to prove himself and gain freedom from his normal self, a self that is trapped in a world of fantasy rather than reality. He believes that attending the bazaar will transform him into someone that Mangan’s sister could desire, and his whole being is focused on doing everything properly in order to perfect the transformation. When the night of the bazaar finally comes the boy must wait for his uncle to come home and give him money before he can go. His uncle, however, is out late drinking, and as a result the narrator is late for the bazaar. When he finally arrives at Araby, only a couple stands are open. He browses one stand but doesn’t really see the objects for sale, being too caught up in his imagined failure. The lights turn out, symbolizing the abrupt end of the young boy’s search for freedom and entrance into an adult world.

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