Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Rowan drawing room

Rowan drawing room. Well-furnished house in Merrion, a Dublin suburb. It is a warm, late afternoon in June, 1912, with the sunlight just beginning to fade. (June, the month in which James Joyce first met his own wife, Nora, is always a significant time in his writings.) The room and its contents indicate that the family that lives here is moderately well-to-do, educated, and cultured. This is clearly a place of some refinement, which reflects the lives of its residents, and this is a room for quiet conversation and discussions. Joyce’s stage descriptions are extremely detailed, not only specifying the arrangement of doors and furniture but requiring chairs upholstered in “faded green plush” and a floor of “stained planking.” Joyce notes only one piece of art, a framed crayon drawing of a young man that hangs above a sideboard against a back wall.

The detail in Joyce’s requirements for the play’s setting is matched by his careful descriptions of the characters, their clothing and their actions. Richard Rowan, for example, is described as “a tall athletic young man of a rather lazy carriage” who has “lightbrown hair and a moustache and wears glasses.” Later Richard’s wife, Bertha, is described as wearing a lavender dress and carrying her cream gloves “knotted round the handle of her sunshade.” The physical settings of Exiles have an essential role in presenting its artistic meaning.

Hand cottage

Hand cottage. Home of Robert Hand, to which the...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bowen, Zack R., and James F. Carens, eds. A Companion to Joyce Studies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. Devotes an essay to Exiles. Includes a textual history.

Deming, Robert H., ed. James Joyce: The Critical Heritage. 2 vols. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970. Pages 130 to 160 in volume 1 contain reviews of Exiles by such writers as George Bernard Shaw and Padraic Colum. Useful for tracing the beginnings of critical opinion on the play.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. 1959. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. References to Exiles throughout. Annotations and biographical information provide background on Joyce’s artistic intentions in Exiles.

Levin, Harry. James Joyce: A Critical Introduction. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1941. A central book in James Joyce studies. A good starting place.

Tysdahl, B. J. Joyce and Ibsen: A Study in Literary Influence. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1968. Pages 87 to 102 discuss Exiles. Argues that Joyce’s well-known debt to Ibsen can mislead readers into reading Exiles as entirely a work of Ibsenesque realism.