What are the examples of epiphanies and paralyses in The Dubliners?
While it is beyond the scope herein to consider all the stories of James Joyce's Dubliners, (the stories through "Araby" have expressed epiphanies while the others have epiphanies reserved for readers), a number of these stories can be considered.
- "The Sisters"
This first story introduces the motif of paralysis. Under British rule, Dublin is the site of paralysis; Dubliners are ineffectual failures. With social and spiritual imperfections, they want to change, but are paralyzed in their efforts and are, thus, ineffective. In this story, a boy's epiphany occurs as he learns about Father Flynn's lurid desires. In performing the rituals of religion, such as holding the chalice, the priest cannot hold on to the chalice and is, thus, paralyzed in his function as a priest,
...there he was, sitting up by himself in the dark in his confession-box, wide-awake and laughing-like softly to himself.
The third story moves to one about adolescence in Joyce's "stages of man." In his infatuation of a friend's sister, a teen confuses the spiritual with the secular in his "Araby" of passion and imagination and is paralyzed in his lust. His epiphany comes on his entry to the bazaar, perceived as exotic, but really banal; likewise, Mangan's sister is not enchanting, but common:
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity....
The fourth story about a young woman who considers leaving her abusive home to go to America with her sailor boyfriend, Eveline's paralysis comes as she feels committed to caring for her little brother and is unable to board the ship. When "A bell clanged upon her heart," Eveline has her epiphany, realizing she will not go.
- "A Painful Case"
The eleventh story in the collection, the narrative centers around mature life; and, so, the epiphany is realized in a more complex manner. In the given moments of real life and place, psychological, social, and moral realities reveal themselves. Mr. James Duffy, who lives an ascetic life, is paralyzed in his asceticism and strict life. But, after meeting Mrs. Emily Sinico, discovering in her a companion with whom he can share his love of books, music, and politics. But, when she becomes emotional with him on one occasion, he breaks off the relationship in his disillusionment that theirs is not the ideal he has imagined. Duffy, afraid to reciprocate her touch is paralyzed in his fear.
When Mrs. Sinico dies, Mr. Duffy reads of her death in the papers where it is described as a "painful case." As he sits "living over his life with her...evoking two images, he new conceived her, he realised that she was dead, that she had ceased to esist, that she had beome a "a memory" just as his life would be the same. Then, his epiphany comes at the end: "He felt that he was alone." The literal lines expand into the symbolic situtation of the story as one of a diminished life.
- "The Dead"
This story combines all the "stages of life": moving backwards from these phases, the main character, Gabriel argues with an Irish nationalist about his British sympathies, he misunderstands his wife, he is unsure of his personal direction, he hopes for a passionate night in the hotel, and he learns of his wife's childhood love.
In the dark, Gabriel's epiphany of admiration of his wife is yet partial; this incomplete recognition may lead to a paralysis/ignorance: "His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world."