The subjectivity evident in literary interpretation is hard to deny. Though one
person may feel that James Joyce’s writing proves Joyce’s support of the feminist
movement, another may believe that Joyce views women as inferior. What could account
for such a difference in opinions? Schwarz explains that subjective reader-response
critics would respond to a question such as this by answering that each reader uses the
literary work to symbolize his or her own life and, therefore, each response is unique to
the individual reader. He asserts that the reader will always find an identity theme in the
particular text he or she is reading. Consequently, the text must be looked at in terms of
the response it invokes in the reader, and what this response says about the reader’s own
psychological needs (129). Several of James Joyce’s works are ideal for subjective
reader-response analysis and, in particular, the story “Eveline” from Dubliners.
The story “Eveline” concerns a love affair between Eveline and a sailor, Frank,
and Eveline’s indecision about whether or not to run away with Frank to Buenos Aires.
Throughout the short story, Joyce describes several images and actions that lead up to
Eveline’s eventual inability to leave with Frank. However, there are such a variety of
images and actions that it is difficult to emphasize the specific key images and actions
that lead readers to their ultimate understanding of the story. Due to the great number of
images and actions in “Eveline,” individual readers must designate their own important
aspects of the story in order to assert meaning. “Each person...
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...overcoming the paralysis of fear and obligation to take a
chance for a more satisfying way of life.
Bleich, David. Readings and Feelings: An Introduction to Subjective Criticism. Urbana:
National Council of Teachers of English, 1975.
Holland, Norman N. “The Question: Who Reads What How?” 5 Readers Reading.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Washington Square Press, 1998.
Schwarz, David R. “Reader-Response Criticism and ‘The Dead’ What Is Reader-
Response Criticism?” James Joyce The Dead: Complete, Authoritative Text with
Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Five
Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Ed. David R. Schwarz. Boston: Bedford
Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
Werner, Craig Hansen. Dubliners: A Pluralistic World. Boston: Twayne Publishers,
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