Joyce Intended Dubliners to betray the soul of that paralysis which many consider a city and aims to do this through his nicely polished looking glass. How is this portrayal of Ireland achieved in the texts you have studied?

Authors Avatar by shakz1234 (student)

Joyce “Intended Dubliners to betray the soul of that paralysis which many consider a city” and aims to do this through his “nicely polished looking glass”. How is this portrayal of Ireland achieved in the texts you have studied?

“I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city.” – James Joyce [1].

Before discussing the portrayal of Ireland in Dubliners, it is important to note Joyce’s aversion for Ireland.  Joyce’s ‘nicely looking polish glass’ [2] is integral as a motif in itself. The idea of a ‘looking glass’ reiterates his own true perception of Ireland, but more importantly what he considers the real and true Ireland. By referring to Dubliners and the portrayal of Ireland as betraying ‘the soul of that hemiplegia which many consider a city’, Joyce separates himself from any associations to his motherland. It is clear then, that there is an undeniable sense of tension and antipathy that we as readers expect from Joyce.

It can be argued that similar to Joyce’s depiction in Dubliners, Brian Friel attempts to hold up his own ‘looking glass’ in Dancing at Lughnasa. Friel in response to a question about 19th century Russian authors once commented:

 “The characters in the plays behave as if their old certainties were as sustaining as ever, even though they know in their hearts that their society is in meltdown and the future has neither a welcome nor even an accommodation for them. Maybe a bit like the people of my own generation in Ireland today” - Brian Friel [3].

It seems apparent that both Joyce and Friel aim to explore aspects of Ireland that are dear to them, however it seems that where Joyce ‘intended to betray the soul of that paralysis’, Friel’s incentive was much rather due to “our need for a past, for memories, and our need to constantly revisit and re-invent those memories" [4]. Joyce’s vivid naturalism ("driven and derided by vanity”) is a contradistinction to Friel’s nostalgic motivation (“what fascinates me about that memory is that it owes nothing to fact. In that memory atmosphere is more real than incident and everything is simultaneously actual and illusory”).

James Joyce was born and raised as a Catholic in the suburbs of Dublin, at a time when Ireland was referred to as the “nursery of nationality” K. Declan (1995) [5], and this clearly had a detrimental impact on Joyce, both as an Irish citizen of the time, and a writer later in life. Dublin was in a dejected economic state at the time of Joyce’s childhood, and his family was struggling financially as a result of this. In 1904, Joyce decided to emigrate to Europe from Dublin. Competent in his understanding of Irish politics and Catholicism, he seemed disgruntled with his native Ireland and hometown of Dublin; his literary work thereafter seeming reminiscent of this eerie and quite vulgar portrayal of Ireland:

“It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass.”- James Joyce [6].


The setting of Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is also important. It is set in the county of Donegal, a place that is politically Southern but geographically Northern. Ballybeg, the village that the play is set in, is quite remote. The Mundy sisters are shown to be isolated and by the end of the play, we as readers witness what is a tragic disintegration of their family; symbolic of the repressive social and cultural state of affairs in Ireland in the 1930s – an Ireland that “was a confused and devastated place” K. Declan (1995) [7].

Join now!

“Are we all for a big dance somewhere?”, “After I’ve put Michael to bed. What about then?” – This exchange between Maggie and Chris is yet again noteworthy in regards to the theme of isolation. During a time where women were expected to uphold the ‘moral fibre of Irish life’[8], it is interesting to see that even in a literal sense, all of the sisters seem detached; mirroring this idea of seclusion and separation from society’s norms and values. As K.Declan (1995) goes on to reaffirm, women “deeply resented a constitution which told them that their sole place was in ...

This is a preview of the whole essay