How are women portrayed in Joyce's Dubliners? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In general, women bear the brunt of the cultural paralysis that is the main theme of Joyce's Dubliners. For the most part, the female characters in these stories lead stunted lives, intellectually and emotionally. A prime example comes in the case of the title character of "Eveline." This young woman has the opportunity to break free from an abusive home environment to start a new life in another country with her lover, Frank. Yet at the very end, she chooses to remain in Ireland while Frank sails off to Buenos Aires. The implication here is that traditional family ties hold women back, preventing them from following their hearts and doing what they believe is right for them.

Even a woman as cultured and refined as Mrs. Sinico in "A Painful Case" isn't free from the general malaise. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she seeks human contact through regular meetings with Mr. Duffy, a bachelor about her age. But he too rejects her, unwilling as he is to explore the world of feelings and human contact which Mrs. Sinico so desperately wants him to share. Mr. Duffy's simply not willing to let go of his male ego. He knows that entering into any kind of deep relationship with Mrs. Sinico will make him the subordinate partner, and that's not something he's prepared to accept.

This would appear to indicate that men too are trapped by Ireland's prevailing cultural and social paralysis. However, it is women who have the worst of it, as can be seen in both of the stories we've been examining. For Eveline, a life of drudgery and domestic abuse looks set to continue. And for Mrs. Sinico, her sad, unfulfilled existence will soon end beneath the wheels of a train in an act of suicide.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I couldn't tell you the stories itself because they are complex and extensive, but the stories do portray women as victimized members of society. In some stories, they are victims of disease (cancer), of the government system and the dole, of the wrath of other women, of the abuse of their husbands, of the effects of alcohol in their men, and of their children's lack of respect, and of themselves as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial