“For Charles H. Peake, Duffy is simply an ‘unhuman egoist,’ a ‘voluntary celibate,’ an ‘upright and incorruptible man’ who freely chooses the ‘cold, dark, silent world of his isolation’” (Jackson 331).
To an extent, I agree with Peake’s characterization of James Duffy, but I disagree with the idea that Duffy “freely chooses” to be isolated. Duffy is “incorruptible” in a sense that he does not make motions towards Mrs. Sinico. Before Sinico’s death, it can be interpreted that Duffy does not make motions either because of his sexuality or his respect for Sinico’s marriage. Duffy views Sinico as someone he can talk to, not a lover. Sinico accepts the role as his confessor, but she thinks beyond this role, looking for intimacy. Duffy stays true to his sexuality, but the aftermath of Sinico’s death shows that he is unwilling to choose his isolation, but rather that he is trapped. Jackson makes several arguments as to why Duffy cannot come out of the closet, mainly focusing on the social pressures Duffy faces.
Jackson does not focus on the symbolism of “an overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten” (Joyce 90). Joyce does not mention the apple beyond this line. The apple is hidden in Duffy’s desk drawer. I interpret the apple as a way in which Duffy proves to be “incorruptible.” Biblically, the apple represents sin. Duffy does not participate in sexual intercourse because he is trapped by society’s interpretation of sexuality. The rotting of the apple supports what he writes in his diary: “Love between man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse” (Joyce 94). All in all, the rotten apple smell symbolizes Duffy’s lack of sexual intercourse and his sexuality.
By not having intercourse with Sinico, he upholds his beliefs. Through her death, we see that Duffy is at the expense of society’s view on sexuality and is therefore trapped in the same way that the overripe apple smell demonstrates his inability to commit heterosexual sin.