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'The city both offers and restricts possibility' (Lehan, The City in Literature)....

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reiki | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted March 20, 2012 at 9:44 PM via web

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'The city both offers and restricts possibility' (Lehan, The City in Literature). Discuss with reference to one story from Dubliners. 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 21, 2012 at 3:29 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that any number of stories from this excellent collection could be referred to in discussing this statement. I would argue, however, that this collection of short stories does present the city as more of a restricting force than one that offers possibilities. You can easily see the strength of this in a story such as "Eveline," where the eponymous protagonist finds herself from the very opening paragraph particularly oppressed by the urban reality of her setting:

She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired.

The use of words such as "invade" clearly demonstrates the way in which the city is presented as almost a force that overwhelms her, as is supported by her passive description of watching the street below her and watching life happen rather than being an active participant in life.

However, at the same time, we could argue that living in the city gives Eveline the chance of renewal and self-transformation. She is given the chance to escape her existence and to start again because of the relationship she has formed with Frank, and therefore we can say that the city gives us a chance of resurrection and hope.

However, at the same time, Eveline discovers that the ties of her former life and to her setting are too strong to be broken so easily, and, echoing the image we are given of her at the beginning of the story, Eveline is a character who is left "passive, like a helpless animal" at the end of the tale to face her fate and her grim urban future. 

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