Essay on Bubbles in James Joyce's Short Story Collection, Dubliners

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Many of Joyce’s characters in Dubliners are trapped in a bubble, where they are paralyzed and confined to a world that they want to escape.
The first example of this is in “Araby” where the narrator is attracted to a young girl. He can hear her, see her, and dream and wish about her. He always thinks about her, and longs to be with her: “Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance (Joyce, 25).” However, he is unable to escape from himself and talk to her or get to know her. The narrator can experience all of the feelings for Mangan’s sister, but he cannot escape from the bubble he is in so that he can talk to her. He tries to get out of this bubble by offering to get her something from the bazaar. However, he is again trapped when his uncle comes home late. The narrator had the brief opportunity to buy something, but he was unable to puncture the bubble he was in: “…I know my stay was useless…then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar…I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out (Joyce 30).” His opportunity to escape from his bubble had passed.
Much like in “Araby,” Eveline is trapped because of the promise she made to her dying mother. She is stuck at home doing the chores and caring for her family: “Home! She looked around the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from (Joyce, 32).” Her life is very mundane and repetitive. Her dream outside the bubble is to live abroad, to be married, and to be treated with respect. She was given a chance with Frank to experience all of this. She, like the young boy in “Araby,” was very close to puncturing ...

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...tered with a song she hears at the party, and becomes very distant: “She broke loose from him and…hid her face. Gabriel stood stock-still for a moment in astonishment. …‘What about the song? Why does that make you cry?’ …‘It was a young boy I used to know…named Michael Furey.’ (Joyce, 230-231).” Gabriel is always in a comfort-zone when he is in his bubble, so he does not feel trapped by it when, in fact, the bubble is trapping him and keeping him from fully experiencing his emotions: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age (Joyce, 235).”
Virtually every character in the stories of Dubliners has the ability to perceive people and events outside of his or her ‘bubble world’, and most have the opportunity to reach beyond their bubble. However, sadly for the characters, none of them do.

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