Triangular Structure in James Joyce's Dubliners

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Triangular Structure in James Joyce's Dubliners

Within the body of literary criticism that surrounds James Joyce's Dubliners is a tendency to preclude analysis beyond an Irish level, beyond Joyce's own intent to "create the uncreated conscience of [his] race." However, in order to place the text within an appropriately expansive context, it seems necessary to examine the implications of the volume's predominant thematic elements within the broader scope of human nature. The "psychic drama" which places Dubliners within a three-tiered psychological framework ² desire, repression, agression ² lies at the root of a larger triangular structure that pervades many of our most fundamental belief systems and life processes. This structure forms the basis for the tenets of some of the most grand attempts at a definition of the purpose and origin of humanity, from the holy trinity of Catholicism to Freud's theory of id, ego, and superego. Dubliners, in its own perhaps less ambitious pursuit of a certain significance of life, embodies and exemplifies similarly triangular frameworks. They are arranged concentrically, relating to both content and structure and radiating out from that central psychological triangle ² desire, repression, aggression. It is this structural mechanism, prevalent throughout the volume, which reveals the philosophical implications of Dubliners and places it within a broader interpretive context.

While it is clear that this psychic drama manifests in its entirety in nearly every individual story in the volume, perhaps more important when viewing Dubliners from a broader perspective is the notion that the three elements of this drama seem to dominate respectively within the three life stages which form the org...

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...ugh a connection such as Walzl makes between ancient interpretive theory and the text of Dubliners, it becomes apparent that the previously described triangular frameworks present in the volume serve to connect it to a certain tradition of philosophy and psychology which attempts to derive the purpose and the intrinsic driving forces of human life and behavior. Numerous examples of these triangular theories exist throughout the history of thought : traditional notions of past, present, and future; Freud's theory of id, ego, and superego; Lacan's division of life into what is real, imaginary, and symbolic; Barthes' idea of sign, signifier, and signified; just to name a few. It is debatable whether or not Joyce's structural decisions had any conscious relationship to this tradition of three-level thought, yet the implications are present regardless of his intentions.

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