The Erotic in Joyce's A Painful Case
The characters whom inhabit Joyce's world in "Dubliners," often have, as Harvard Literature Professor Fischer stated in lecture, a "limited way" of thinking about and understanding themselves and the world around them. Such "determinism," however, operates not on a broad cultural scale, but works in smaller, more local, more interior and more idiosyncratic ways. That is, the forces which govern Joyce's characters are not necessarily cultural or socioeconomic in nature, but rather, as Prof. Fischer stated, are "tiny," and work on a more intimate level. In any case, as a result of such "forces", these stories often tend to be about something, as Prof. Fischer said, that doesn't…show more content… The first instance of this occurs when Joyce writes, "The dark discreet room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears united them" (111). As with the description of "mental eroticism," (i.e. "thoughts entangling"), Joyce couches "auditory eroticisim" in physically erotic terms as well. It is through sound, in this case "music," music which we are told "vibrates," that the two are brought together, "united." The setting, "a dark discreet room", the way in which the music is described, "vibrating" and the use of the phrase "united," all suggest a kind of romantic, physically erotic union. Similarly, Joyce later describes how Duffy "seemed to feel her voice touch his ear..." (118). By describing a voice as "touching" an "ear," Joyce again suggests a physical act of eroticism. Unlike, however, the "touching of their hands," which Joyce says Duffy imagines as well, the idea of a "voice touching an ear" suggests not only external "touching", but because a voice enters one's body and soul, also connotes images of penetration. A voice, unlike hands, penetrates; committing the most erotic act of all.
It is not, however, until the end of the story that we are able to understand not only how "sound" and "voice" functions in a "auditory erotic" fashion, but how such eroticism is responsible for Duffy's, albeit impermanent, self-transcendence. In a passage which Professor Fischer would