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'The sisters' and 'An encounter' - Considering in detail one o two passages, discuss Joyce's treatment of the church in Dubliners.

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Introduction

Considering in detail one o two passages, discuss Joyce's treatment of the church in Dubliners The two passages that I will be examining are from The Sisters and An Encounter. The first passage from The Sisters begins "But no," and continues to the end of the story. The second passage from An Encounter begins "After a long while his monologue paused," and again, continues to the end. Both passages clearly show Joyce's strong (and sometimes contrasting) opinions towards the church, but first it helps to understand what this entails. There are three key areas pertaining to the church: religion, Catholicism and dogma (used indirectly to comment on the Catholic Church's seemingly mundane and repetitive rituals). Joyce attacks the church itself through satire and allegories, but his treatment of religion is a more interesting matter: his images (such as that of the damaged chalice in The Sisters and the lonely "Pigeon House" in An Encounter) ...read more.

Middle

Through this allegory Joyce makes an ironic comment on the flawed (and initially deceptive) symbolism (the act of placing the chalice on the breast) used to disguise the breakdown of Catholic system. Why does this breakdown occur? There is much evidence to suggest that Joyce's main target is dogma within the Catholic Church, and it is at this point where symbols become blurred - does his hatred of religious dogma reflect a deeper resentment of the repetitive, retentive banality of Dublin or is he claiming that Dublin has only stagnated because of Catholicism's fixation with ritual and ceremony? Both claims are true to a degree, although the dominant idea is that of religion instilling a fondness for ritual and ceremony: as the church fails to provide spiritual comfort people turn to a substitute (often Joyce satirically describes alcoholism as a formal procedure of sorts, where it is integrated into the mind of the drinker) ...read more.

Conclusion

Thus we can see that Joyce had some faith, although it is unclear what outlet this took: his approach to atheism is recorded in A Painful Case (showing a desire to transcend faith and achieve the status of a Nietzschean ´┐Żbermensch) and An Encounter, where the "queer old josser" (through his desire to "whip" children) represents the Puritanical desire for purging all sins through sadism. The repetition of words and the use of ellipses lend a trance-like quality to the passage and his monologue is like a perverted sermon. Looking at these extremes, I think that much of the aggression and cynicism present in Dubliners comes from an inability on Joyce's part to reconcile the two - one of the functions of his biblical allusions is to describe a time when religion was pure and untainted by any intermediary. Mr. Duffy cannot achieve perfection ironically because of a ridiculous adherence to dogma (Joyce even writes, "his life rolled out evenly - an adventureless tale") and the "queer old josser" falls victim to exactly the same problem. ...read more.

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