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James Joyce’s “Clay'; and “Eveline'; were two stories impacted by the break with his family, church, and his country. In this paper I will give examples to show that my thesis is correct. I may also enlighten you by telling you the story of an excellent Irish writer.
James Augustine Joyce lived from 1882 to 1941. He was an Irish novelist and poet, “whose psychological perceptions and innovative literary techniques make him one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century'; (Encarta, 1). “His first book, Chamber Music, consists of thirty-six highly finished love poems. In his second work, Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories, Joyce dealt with episodes of his childhood and adolescence and with family and public life in Dublin, Ireland'; (Encarta, 1). “Joyce employed symbols to create what he called an “epiphany';, the revelation of an emotional or personal truth'; (Encarta, 1). “Using experimental techniques to convey the essential nature of realistic
situations, Joyce merged in his greatest works the literary traditions of realism, naturalism, and symbolism'; (Encarta, 1). “In 1941, suffering from a perforated ulcer, Joyce dies in Zurich on January thirteenth'; (Encarta, 1).
“Joyce’s story, “Clay';, starts off on Halloween, which is the Celtic New Year’s Eve and Feast of the Dead. In Irish customs, it is a night of remembrance of the dead ancestors and anticipation of the various fortune telling games'; (Masterplots, 1). The story is about Maria, a middle age spinster who works in the kitchen of a laundry established for the reform of prostitutes. She makes her way across the city of Dublin to the seasonal festivities at the home of her former father figure, Joe Donnelly. Joyce draws a character portrait, which conveys much of Maria’s past, present, and future. The story develops at three scenes: at the laundry, on the journey across the city, and at the Halloween party. At the laundry, Maria’s fussy personality is shown as she prepares tea and anticipates her reunion with Joe and Mrs. Donnelly. When she travels northward stopping at the city, she is reminded of her isolation, first by the irritation of the girl in the cake shop and again by the polite attentions of the gentleman in the train. When she reaches the Donnelly’s she is greeted with mixed emotions since she interrupts the children’s party and disrupts the festive atmosphere. The festive fun is restored all the same by fortune telling games.
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“This story can be viewed as an astute study of a psychologically repressed personality'; (Masterplots, 2). The setting implies references about the social, religious, and cultural ideals of Maria’s repression. She feels that life has betrayed her and that she has never found a husband and probably never will. She puts all of her attention towards her job, her religion, and the Donnelly’s Halloween party, which is the nearest to family life she has ever known. There are references to witchcraft, which tie in with the old Celtic ways. “Joyce’s personal background and education made him deeply aware of the tragic history of Ireland, including the destruction of its Celtic civilization. The Christianity of these traditions, Ireland’s subsequent conquest by the English, and the inertia that Joyce observed in the Dublin of his time are all recurring themes in Joyce’s fiction. In this particular case, he is able to exploit the rich fictional possibilities afforded a Halloween story about a poor, disappointed spinster whose profile is like Ireland’s battered western coastline'; (Masterplots, 3).
Eveline is a story of a woman that has to make a decision. It’s probably the hardest decision of her life. She must decide whether to keep her family together or to go start a new family with Frank in Buenos Ayres. She lives with her father. Her older brother Ernest is dead, along with her mother, and her brother Harry is always down somewhere in the country working as a church decorator. Before her mother died she told her she’d keep the family together for as long as she could. I think this later influenced her decision to go with Frank or
to stay and keep the family together. The entire story is based on Eveline’s thoughts and decisions. She is thinking at her window, looking out at ‘The Avenue’ (the street where she grew up). She has written two letters. One was to Harry, her older working brother, and the other was to her father. They were goodbye letters, saying where she was going and with whom she was to go with. She feels she must escape. Frank would save her. She leaves on a sudden impulse of terror and goes to the dock with Frank where their passage to Buenos Ayres has already been booked. As Frank gets on the boat, she has second thoughts. He gets on the boat and he calls to her several times. She doesn’t go. She lets Frank go without any sign of farewell or love. She stays and lets Frank go without her.
Eveline returns to her normal life: taking care of the family and leaving her love, Frank, behind. She was afraid to start a life with Frank. She felt responsible for taking care of her family. Eveline is insecure about herself and her life. Frank Magill suggested that a similar event happened to James Joyce; when he met the love of his life, his future wife, Nora Barnacle, and wanted to take her away from Ireland (Magill 1745). Eveline loved Frank but how much could she know about him. He was only there for his holiday. She dreamt about the people in Buenos Ayres, but how could she really know how they would treat
her. Ian Ousby suggested that James Joyce had a situation with his two children where he felt responsible for them. He gave up things to keep his family together (Ousby 527). She feels responsible “for keeping the family together.'; She told her mother she would. Eveline must care for her father and the house they live in. Stanley Kunitz says James Joyce was summoned to his mother’s deathbed, where he stayed by her side until her death, four months later (Kunitz 735). Even though Eveline’s surroundings are hard on her, she refuses to leave. Eveline’s life is miserable due to the fact that she is insecure and feels responsible for her family’s well being, a fact that leads to her decision of leaving Frank.
Both “Eveline'; and “Clay'; include women haunted by death in Joyce’s stories. Eveline was haunted by her mother’s death and tried to keep her family together. In “Clay';, Maria was haunted by the omen of her own death. She never had a husband and the only thing she was living for was her job and religion. Eveline tried to leave her family with a man but she could not when she remembered the promise made to her mother. Both these women must feel that life has betrayed them. Maria would die to have a family, but she has to settle for a once a year Halloween party to feel loved by one. Eveline doesn’t really want the responsibilities of a family, but she takes them because of her mother’s death, she would like to live with Frank.
In this paper I’ve shown Joyce’s styles of writing and his reasons. It shows the links between his stories and his very own life. Not only do these two
Dubliners have things in common but all of them probably do. They also all have things in common with each other.
-Encarta Encyclopedia © 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation
-Kunitz, Stanley. Twentieth CenturyAuthors. USA: The H.W. Wilson company, 1942. Pgs. 735-737.
-Magill, Frank. Critical Survey of Poetry, The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. NY: Guild, 1988. Pgs. 526-527.
-Owens, Coilin. Masterplots on CD-ROM. Clay © 1997 Salem Press