In James Joyce’s anthology, The Dubliners (specifically, ‘The Sisters’) what happened in the resolution?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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  • In "The Sisters," a young boy, who is also the narrator of the story first considers the paralysis of the priest who has been his mentor; as he does so, he is filled with fear and a desire to look upon its "deadly work."  While he listens to the conversations of the two sisters of Father Flynn as well as that of his own aunt, the boy arrives at his epiphany, or sudden realization about someone or something.  This epiphany for the boy is his new knowledge about Father Flynn since before now there has been some ambiguity regarding Father. The boy himself has had a dream in which the priest has desired to confess something. The voice begins to confess and the narrator wonders at the spittle upon his lips. Then, the narrator smiles feebly as if "to absolve the simoniac of his sin."  Apparently, the priest's sin is too serious to be absolved.

This is, perhaps, why the high priest is found to be "a disappointed man" as the boy's aunt describes him whire Father Flynn's sister describes him as having a life that is crossed.  He is a priest who has dropped his chalice, the symbol of his very priesthood.  For Joyce here, the rituals of the religious sect mean paralysis. This spiritual paralysis manifests itself at the end of the story: there, in the dark wide-flying,silence

...there in "the dark, wild-flying silence" of the confessional the priest sat "laughing-like softly to himself.

From what he has seen and heard after Father Flynn's death and from his dream, as well, the boy concludes that there has been something  that has "gone wrong," something unforgivable with Father Flynn.

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