Comparing the Women in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses

Comparing the Women in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses

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Characterization of Women in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses

 
Joyce's depiction of women is characterized by a high degree of literary self-consciousness, perhaps even more so than in the rest of his work. The self-consciousness emerges as an awareness of both genre and linguistic expectations. contrasting highly self-conscious, isolated literary men (or men with literary aspirations) with women who follow more romantic models, even stereotypes. In Dubliners, Joyce utilizes a clichéd story of doomed love ending in death-physical or spiritual-in "A Painful Case" and "The Dead." The former holds far more to these conventions and can be read as a precursor to the more sophisticated techniques in the latter, which draws the reader's attention to the cliché only to redirect it. Nevertheless, it is Joyce's handiwork here, his subversion of genre, that takes the main stage, and the women in the stories do fade into the background. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he again literalizes a stereotype, the Madonna/whore binary, showing women as nuns, long-suffering wives, or prostitutes. But this division also serves to highlight one of Stephen Dedalus's primary battles, between Ireland and exile, family and freedom, which results in a call to writing away from domestic responsibility. Ulysses, and especially "Penelope," seems to escape these because it is precisely against genre-there was no preexisting "in-bed monologue" genre-but it is the most conscious and critical of feminine linguistic construction. "Female" words (through letters to Bloom) are the constant aural background in Bloom's mind, but he fixates on them precisely because of their "bad writing" (4.414), a...


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...him as Molly thinks about him in the present and, most importantly, well after Joyce wrote about him, in the eternal lines of "Penelope."

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Bidwell, Bruce and Linda Heffer. The Joycean Way: A Topographic Guide to Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Johns Hopkins: Baltimore, 1981.

Gifford, Don. Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. University of California: Berkeley, 1982.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Penguin Books: New York, 1975.

Peake, C.H. James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist. Stanford University: Stanford, 1977.

Tindall, William York. A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. Noonday Press: New York, 1959.

Walzl, Florence L. "Dubliners." A Companion Study to James Joyce. Ed. Zack Bowen and James F. Carens. Greenwood Press: London, 1984

 

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