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In James Joyce’s anthology, The Dubliners (specifically, ‘The Sisters') what was...
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High School Teacher
As with many of James Joyce's short stories in The Dubliners, "The Sisters" seems to have little to no plot. On the surface little seems to happen. We know from the beginning that Father Flynn is dying. "There was no hope for him this time." The narrator is his student, who has been taking lessons in religion from the priest. The narrator finds out from a family friend Old Cotter that the priest has died. The next day, the narrator goes to the priest's house. There he meets the title characters--the sisters. These two women are the sisters of the priest who have tended to his needs and from whom we learn much about the priest's physical and mental decline. From them we learn that he dropped the chalice, an incident that seems to precipitate Father Flynn's collapse, and later he was found laughing in the confessional. The sisters declare that he was a "conflicted man" but view his corpse as a "beautiful" one.
The narrator who seems to be experiencing the death of someone he knows for the first time views the priest through unfiltered eyes. To him the priest was a friend. Yet, his death brings a curious sense of relief He seems focused on the priest's physical deterioriation both in life and in death. To him his corpse is anything but beautiful.
Much, though, seems to be omitted from this story. Like the gnomon, one of the words that so fascinates the boy, parts are left out. We don't truly know the extent of the priest's interactions with the boy or the reasons for the priest's mental decline. But we, like the narrator, sense a certain uneasiness when the priest is mentioned, as if his true flaws are not revealed--either by the narrator who is too innocent to understand or by the sisters who seem to find comfort in routine and ritual.
Posted by susan3smith on September 24, 2011 at 7:27 AM (Answer #1)
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