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From your reading of the two stories in the 'Childhood' section of Dubliners how is the encounter between different generations portrayed and what do you think is its role?

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Introduction

2 From your reading of the two stories in the 'Childhood' section of Dubliners how is the encounter between different generations portrayed and what do you think is its role? The stories 'An Encounter' and 'Sisters' contain objective viewpoints about the older generation, and are told from the perspective of a young boy. There is the implication in both stories that the older generation is associated with religion which plays a paralysing role in the society of Dublin. The role of the encounter between the different age groups demonstrates the conflict of belief that occurs between young children growing up, forming their own opinions and beliefs, and their elders, who are trying to impress attitudes and traditions on them that seem unnatural to them. There is a suggestion that its role is also representative of the turmoil which Catholic Ireland found itself in during this period. The young boy, from whose perspective we see the elder generation, does not appear to hold the respect he ought to for his elders. ...read more.

Middle

The man in 'An Encounter', also representing religion does not give a good impression of this central aspect of Irish society, he is perverted and contradictory in his words, 'he seemed to have forgotten his recent liberalism...he would whip a boy... he would love that.' One role of this encounter is to demonstrate the confusion that the boy feels about religion, before his eyes he sees contradiction in a religious figure, perverted and unnerving contradiction at that, which can only serve to add yet more doubt to his wavering faith. In both scenarios the narrator feels relieved when he escapes his elders whom he finds unnerving, indeed the epiphany in 'Sisters' is the moment where he realises that he feels 'a sensation of freedom...by his death.' In the same way in 'An Encounter' the boy seizes the first available moment to escape from the strange man, 'I stood up abruptly...saying that I was obliged to go.' There is an urgency to get away from these mysterious characters although this is not apparent to the boy in the context of Father Flynn until he is involuntarily released by his death. ...read more.

Conclusion

The encounters used by Joyce in these two stories play conflicting roles, and contradiction is evident even within the same story; the boy describes a sense of anxiety to escape from his elders, yet expresses guilt at these feelings. He feels trapped by religion, yet sympathises with a priest about the constraints it makes on society, surprising as such a figure should be the embodiment of the restriction he finds it hard to abide by. The distance expressed both in terms of age and in opinion shows how the boy feels controlled by a generation he cannot relate to. This conveys a sense of paralysis affecting the younger generation of Ireland, a generation controlled by its elders and their religion, a religion which controls rather than directs its pupils. The encounters that make up such an important part of the two stories serve to demonstrate the alienation the children of Ireland feel towards their elders and their social situation: there simply is not the same strength of feeling towards religion in their lives, an empowering force on their lives and in Dublin. Victoria Savage LVI September 2003 ...read more.

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