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THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly... but there was something queer... there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion...."He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery."I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those ... peculiar cases .... But it's hard to say...."He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

The Sisters by James Joyce "Dubliners"

Theme Analysis

In the first story in “Dubliners” by James Joyce, introduces many of the themes that will recur throughout books in James Joyce’s life. Linking its parts together into something that is not quite a novel but more than a simple collection of short stories. James Joyce achieves the creation of themes such as Paralysis, corruption and death though the use of symbolism and imagery.

The first theme is paralysis. James Joyce believed that humanity and civilization, as well as wealth, had been stopped for centuries by two things. The first was the Roman Catholic Church, who’s teachings made most Dubliners of Joyce’s day hold on to dearly. The second was England, which had taken over Ireland in the 1800s and opposed surrendering the country its independence. In the first line of “Sisters,” Father Flynn suffered a fatal stroke, a problem of blood vessels in the brain that cause paralysis, if not death. Actually, it may have been a stroke that caused dropping of the award revealed near the end of the story. Also, the gray face in the boy’s dream that “had died of paralysis” is that of Father Flynn himself. Clearly Father Flynn represents the paralyzed Catholic Church in this story, and it’s ability to paralyze others. The time spent with the priest prevents the boy from having fun with his friends. Furthermore, Father Flynn lives on Great Britain Street and dies on the anniversary of England’s victory over Ireland.

The second theme that Joyce introduces is corruption. In the second paragraph of this story, the narrator mentions the word simony, which means the selling of blessings, pardons, or other things the Roman Catholic Church does to its members. Later, Father Flynn will be referred to as a simoniac, which would then mean guilty of this offense. In Father Flynn’s inability to progress due to his corruption in the way of sins, of a guilty nature then it is evident that corruption is linked to the theme of paralysis. James Joyce brings forth the idea that because corruption prevents progress, it is almost identical to the theme of paralysis.The third theme is death, whether that death is physical or purely spiritual, Joyce’s attitude toward death is very difficult to comprehend. In “The Sisters,” physical death is not thought to be bad, because it frees Father Flynn from what seems to be a horrible life. The last image of the priest shows him “sitting in the dark in his confession box, wide-awake and laughing-like softly to himself,” as if he knew things would be better. Father Flynn looks as if he has been suffering a spiritual death way before he actually passed away.  The priest’s death releases the boy also from the paralysis and corruption of the world and also from death, the death that Joyce thought would come to him if he remained connected with the Church. The narrator says “I found it strange,” “that neither I nor the day seemed in a mourning mood and I felt even annoyed at discovering in myself a sensation of freedom as if I had been freed from something by his death.”

Thus, “Dubliners” by James Joyce not only begins with a death, reinforcing the negative themes paralysis, corruption, and death. Through the use of imagery and symbolism every one of these themes are presented. An example is Father Flynn’s “big discolored teeth” mostly yellow and brown. Yellow and brown are two colors used repeatedly by James Joyce to symbolize the decay and paralysis throughout the work of James Joyce.

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