There are many aspects of Irish life that are discussed in James Joyce’s works. The role of religion in shaping social conventions, love relationships and moral structure is a preoccupying element of Joyce’s stories. Joyce’s characters in the Dubliners are described as short-tempered, having thwarted loves and intense class and self-consciousness. Many of the characters in Dubliners, seek escape and adventure, ponder the significance of death and react to the confinement of routine. Why are Joyce’s characters this way? This paper is an attempt to probe these elements of Joyce’s works.
Religious beliefs and unbelief are central, so much to as to become a character of sorts. Joyce’s persons have religious thought and organizations to join in as it is a tangible and responsive entity. It is odd that many of the characters do not seek out religion or family as the answer to their problems. Farrington of Counterparts demonstrates the dangerous potential of escapism and the actions and components which define his purported normalcy. The word counterpart means a person or thing holding a position or performing a function that corresponds to that of another person or thing in another place. The title itself suggesting the subject being a part of something else but Farrington doesn’t see himself as a part. Farrington’s work mirrors his social and home life in repetition and it is suggested that this repetition causes his anger to worsen (SparkNotes). However, Farrington, with his explosive physical reactions, shows more than any other character the ramifications of perceived normalcy. On the surface he is a family man and a worker bee with all the props available to him to project the aforementioned images. He is however without understanding how to be a complete human being which might cause his violence.
I do not believe repetition results in violence but a lack of empathy, community and introspection. In his off time, he doesn’t lend himself to betterment or gathering with his family but he escapes exhibiting antisocial behavior with binge drinking and excessive spending. He could go home and spend time with his family or he could use his time to pray or introspect about his place as a man, father and husband. He doesn’t do these things preferring role playing (a strong man), drunkenness (avoidance) and lashing out (reprisal) at an innocent, his son. He lashes out as if it is others who have failed him but doesn’t bother to look within. This story illuminates the importance of choices. Why doesn’t he introspect, pray or spend time with his family? All these options are available, but he chooses to do bad.
The way religion is portrayed by Joyce is significant. In Grace Father Tom Burke is mentioned. He was a famous and popular Irish Dominican priest whose homiletic style was everything but gracious. His sermons were marked by vulgar metaphors and unabashed xenophobic Irish nationalism. Joyce calls into question the loftier ideals associated with religion even mentioning him. In Grace the characters discuss their view of religion.
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