Sunday, April 3, 2011

Duffy's Painful Case

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Ed. Margot Norris. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. Print.

"Joyce may have veiled Duffy in uncertainty at the end, but the accumulated allusions leave no doubt as to Duffy's sexuality and to the destructiveness of a homophobia that reaches far beyond its intended target."

The above criticism, from Roberta Jackson's article "The Open Closet in Dubliners: James Duffy's Painful Case" is an apt summary of Joyce's short story "A Painful Case." While I agree with what she has said, I think analyses of the story continually leave out another meaning of the title--namely, that the death of Mrs. Sinico is a painful case--not only because suicide is painful for the survivor's relatives, but also because the "case," the death, is particularly painful for Mr. Duffy, who feels responsible. On page 98, the text says "Why had he withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He felt his moral nature falling to pieces." I think the text shows another subltlety of homophobia--the ensuing affects cause Mr. Duffy not only to feel alienated, but incapable of making other people happy. The fact that he wonders "Why he had withheld life from her?" shows that he has considered trying to force himself to conform--and therefore shows in effect that his inability to make himself conform tortures him just as much as his subhuman role as the "other."

1 comment:

  1. I believe Duffy's relationship with Sinico can be related to Ireland's relationship with Great Britain during the time Joyce wrote Dubliners. Duffy's homosexuality isolates him from society and causes him to avoid his hometown in the western part of Ireland, which was where Irish nationalism was strongly supported. Duffy does not express his political beliefs and cannot associate with others as a result. He removes himself from a political group out and is an outcast in Ireland. He has trouble accepting his sexuality and only tells Mrs. Sinico about it. Sinico represents Great Britain in the sense that she is able to affect Duffy without trying and dominates his emotional well-being even after her death. Duffy feels guilty because he does not seem to have a place in Ireland.