The thesis considers Joyce's short stories "Araby," "A Painful Case," and the "The Dead," illustrating how these works present three intellectually and emotionally similar protagonists, but at different stages of life, with the final tale "The Dead" suggesting a sort of limited solution to the conflicts that define the earlier works. Taken together, "Araby" and "A Painful Case," represent a sort of life cycle of alienation: the boy of "Araby" is an isolated, deeply introspective youth who lives primarily within his own idealized mental world before discovering, through a failed romantic quest at the story's end, the complete impracticality of his own highly abstracted desires. In contrast, Duffy of "A Painful Case" is an extremely rigid, middle-aged bachelor who lives in a self-imposed exile from Irish society in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape the sort of mental and emotional pain that affects the boy, with his final epiphany being that such ideals still exist within him, but he now no longer has any hope of changing his life or taking part in society. The stories suggest that such idealized desires can neither be ignored nor fulfilled, and it is not until the chronologically final story "The Dead" that Joyce suggests any sort of limited solution to the dilemma. Gabriel of "The Dead" again displays the introversion, emotional fragility and extreme idealism of the earlier protagonists, but he, as a young, adult man, presents a break in the cycle and an alternate path. In contrast to the earlier protagonists, Gabriel refuses to exist within his own mental world alone, and instead takes part in and attempts to accommodate the desires of both society as a whole, and of specific individuals close to him, such as his aunts and his wife Gretta. Though Gabriel's attempts are not an unmitigated success, he earns a degree of satisfaction for his efforts, with his final revelation being of his connection to the rest of humanity, in contrast to the self-absorbed and hopeless reflections of the earlier protagonists.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Muhlestein, Nicholas, "Interrupting the Cycle: Idealization, Alienation and Social Performance in James Joyce's "Araby," "A Painful Case," and "The Dead."" (2010). All Theses and Dissertations. 2538.
Joyce, Dubliners, The Dead, Araby, A Painful Case, alienation, idealism