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Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15) 
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Post Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)


Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences.



Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:08 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
The title seems an understatement, or maybe like a cliche applied to a story of genuine anguish. The title comes from the newspaper headline to the story of the woman's death, but Joyce means for it to apply to Mr. Duffy, too. Duffy is emotionally neutered, so it's appropriate that the title carries so little emotion.

I was surprised by the turn at the end. I guess by this time I was expecting no redemption to be hinted at, but the fact that Duffy realizes what a horrible corner he has put himself into, indicates the possibility of change. By this time in his writing, was Joyce trying to picture solutions to the paralysis he diagnosed?

The Wordsworth volume mentioned on the first page is probably there to chime with the reclusive nature of Mr. Duffy. Wordsworth celebrated being solitary nature (though Duffy doesn't seem to have the nature part down); his grand ambition was a philosophical epic called The Recluse (never completed). The Maynooth Catechism I don't know about. Duffy had no religion. Later, after Mrs. Sinico dies, two volumes of Nietzsche appear, an author who despised the herd.

Duffy's location of Chapelizod is supposed to be significant, say the commentators. Something about Tristan and Isolde.



Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:57 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
I thought I read somewhere that most of the stories in DUBLINERS feature an epiphany of sorts. I haven't noticed any in the last few stories, but definitely in this one. As such, Duffy's epiphany does set a more redemptive tone and gives us hope for the future. Hope is not a word you would use to describe most of these stories.

I like how Duffy is so judgmental when he first learns of Emily Sinico's death, but upon reflection begins to take some personal responsibility and quickly recasts the tragedy in a different light.


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Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:08 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
I don't know if this struck you, too, geo, but each time I read the story, I was puzzled by the last sentence: "He felt himself to be alone." It seemed anticlimactic and simply assumed by that point. Usually, we use "felt" in this way to mean "the thought registered," but nothing very intense at all. I realized that Joyce, always the careful writer, intended to emphasize "felt," showing that until this point, although Duffy was alone, he didn't feel it; in fact he saw his aloneness as a form of superiority. When he fully realizes the chance he denied to Mrs. Sinico, he also realizes the chance to connect with another person that he denied himself.



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Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:08 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
geo wrote:

I like how Duffy is so judgmental when he first learns of Emily Sinico's death, but upon reflection begins to take some personal responsibility and quickly recasts the tragedy in a different light.

I had the same reaction. One of the things I've noticed about the stories is how accurately at times Joyce captures the workings of the mind, as evidenced in this story. How fast we jump to judgements that affirm our own belief or standing and then upon reflection (if we are lucky) a deeper, more nuanced understanding comes.



Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:12 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "A Painful Case" (Story 11 of 15)
geo wrote:
I thought I read somewhere that most of the stories in DUBLINERS feature an epiphany of sorts. I haven't noticed any in the last few stories, but definitely in this one. As such, Duffy's epiphany does set a more redemptive tone and gives us hope for the future. Hope is not a word you would use to describe most of these stories.

I like how Duffy is so judgmental when he first learns of Emily Sinico's death, but upon reflection begins to take some personal responsibility and quickly recasts the tragedy in a different light.

There's some critics' razz-ma-tazz out there about Joyce's epiphanies if you care to look for it. The introducer in my Everyman edition goes into it a bit. Just to give an idea, "In Dubliners an epiphany may be an object correctly apprehended (as the coin at the end of "Two Gallants"), or a vulgarity of speech or of gesture (as the last appearance of Mrs. Kearney in "a Mother), or a memorable phase of the mind itself (as at the end of "A Painful Case" or "The Dead"). In "Araby" a vulgarity of speech triggers an epiphany which is a memorable phase of the mind. Usually the epiphanies which descend upon vulgarity of speech or gesture--and by vulgarity Joyce does not necessarily mean grossness of expression, but that which, even if socially unacceptable in manner, betrays a grossness of mind and feeling--reveal characters of limited sensibility and are experienced by the reader alone (as in "Counterparts," "The Boardinghouse," and "Grace"), whereas those which express a memorable phase of the mind are apprehended both by the reader and by characters of finer sensibility such as Duffy and Gabriel Conroy. But in all cases these epiphanies are moments when the themes of the story find their exact focus, when the implications of the narrative suddenly manifest themselves."

Does this widening of the meaning of 'epiphany' seem to enrich the possibilities of the word, or by making it so all-purpose drain it of usefulness?



Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:23 am
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