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Analyse the main themes and narrative devices introduced in The Sister

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Analyse the main themes and narrative devices introduced in 'The Sisters' There are many themes and narrative devices introduced in the short story 'The Sisters' from the collection 'Dubliners' by James Joyce. Themes include the moribund nature and the simony of the Dublin Catholic Church of the time, Home Rule and contemptus mundi. Some narrative devices which Joyce uses are epiphany and ellipsis. Firstly, there is the major theme of the decline and ultimately moribund nature of the Catholic Church at the time. This is first seen in the first section of the novella through the image of the dead priest. The first line itself is symbolic of the religious demise in Dublin. 'There was no hope for him' mirrors the lack of hope for the Catholic Church in Dublin. Also, the nature of his death ('it was the third stroke') is an allusion to the trinity showing how a spiritual symbol in this city is a cause of death. Also, the date on which he died is significant; July 1st is the Feast of the Most Blessed Blood, a Catholic Feast day commemorating Jesus' sacrifice of his own blood for our sins. This is ironic because it emerges later on in the novella that Father Flynn's most serious transgression is spilling a holy chalice ('it was the chalice he broke'), presumably containing either transubstantiated wine or Eucharistic wine in any case. ...read more.


The missing part could be anything although Joyce is probably suggesting that Dublin lacks spiritual assurance and confidence. Gnomon can also mean the stylus of a sundial, in other words the part that casts the shadow. This is symbolic because there is a shadow cast on the Dublin society by the Catholic Church. The society has subsumed the Catholic values and so is blindly following the Church and its strictures despite the fact that it is needlessly constricting any development of the social confidence it needs. But the main misuse of religious power we see is that of the priest in his manipulative relationship with the boy. We have already seen how it affected the boy but to see a true metaphor for the simonaic nature of the Church at the time is the priest. We first hear about 'simony' on the first page where the boy is describing words that sound 'strangely' in his ears. Simony ironically is one which the boy is drawn to, although he is probably unaware that he has been exploited by the priest (a manifestation of this sin). Although we do not hear or see him in the novella we can gain a picture of him through the descriptions given by others. Mr Cotter describes him as 'one of those...peculiar cases' and says that 'he had a great wish for him (the boy)'. ...read more.


Also, we are reminded again of home rule by the use of the street name 'Great Britain Street' which shows that British imperialism has fully infiltrated the Dublin society, even down to the street names. Finally Joyce uses the narrative device of ellipsis. This is the deliberate evasion of the truth by the characters for the sake of respectability. Firstly the narrator himself does not disclose any scandalous information concerning the priest although there is no implication that he knows any. But more importantly we see his relatives discussing the priest and clearly leaving out any words that might cause offence. For example, Mr Cotter says 'he was one of those...peculiar cases...But it's hard to say...' Here we have a clear visual representation of this ellipsis in the form of the '...'. We see this again when the uncle seems just about to disclose what it is that the boy and the priest have been doing which they should not have and then the voice trails off again: 'let a lad run about and play with young lads of his own age and not be...'. In conclusion, Joyce uses many themes and narrative devices effectively to portray his views about Dublin life. These include the faults in the Catholic Church of the time, the oppressive rule of the English and also the narrative devices of ellipsis and epiphany. Jonny Venvell 18/02/2010 ...read more.

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