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issues of class

Wednesday, September 2, 2009; 03:22 am Leave a comment Go to comments

One problem I encountered while reading these selections was how Joyce dealt with class issues.  Near the beginning of Iv Day the canvassers harass him, pretending he has no respect for the working man.  However, throughout the story, they show mistrust of the shoeboy to follow through with his all-important duties in the line of booze delivery.  They take for granted the labor of Jack himself, and the courtesies he offers, such as his chair.  Mr. Henchy instinctively asks Jack to open another bottle before realizing that without a corkscrew, he will have to use his strange fire opening technique.  Joyce seems to contrast the characters’ lack of concern for class, with his own clear concern for conveying the class dynamics  in the scene.  In The Dead, the dynamics are shifted dramatically, and right away the reader is confronted with Gabriel’s overwhelming concern for class issues.  He is very uncomfortable with his interaction with Lily, and ends his encounter by pressing money in her hand and running off to hopefully avoid further awkwardness for himself.  He is also very concerned with his prepared recitation, and feels he will only appear pompous and overly educated.  In these two stories Joyce gives a glimpse the large gap in financial/social/educational status that exists in Dublin, and with Gabriel provides a sense of the awkwardness that entails.  Gabriel does not feel comfortable around these people he seems more continental than his fellow characters, not at home in Ireland.

The issue of Ireland’s relationship to England and to the Continent, were also striking issues  to me in these stories, but somebody else will probably be able to talk about it better.

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