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Dubliners - "Grace" (Story 14 of 15) 
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Post Dubliners - "Grace" (Story 14 of 15)
Dubliners - "Grace" (Story 14 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 11:06 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "Grace" (Story 14 of 15)
How serious is Joyce in "Grace"? Even though the story is largely about religion and is certainly not extolling the Church, Joyce treats the men in the story humorously and seems accepting of their foibles. This is not the very much darker view of religion we saw in the first story, "The Sisters." Religion is just a habit for these people and requires very little of them. The men are all ludicrously misinformed about their religion. They make a big deal of their "retreat," but we find out that Father Purdon (whose name comes from the red light district in Dublin) only wants to tell them that it's okay to be a man of the world, that Jesus understood that, so carry on.

Is Joyce's humor only superficial, though? Mr. Kernan seems a lovable guy, but only if we overlook the effect of his life on himself and his family. The friends are so clueless about alcoholism that they drink with him around his sick bed. The retreat is nonthreatening to all, but it's impossible that this spiritual cure will get Kernan out of his alcoholism. This might suggest the powerlessness of Irish religion in the face of real human problems, the same thing that is implied by the silly discussion of papal infallibility ex cathedra.



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Post Re: Dubliners - "Grace" (Story 14 of 15)
I enjoyed this story. As in "Ivy Day," Joyce shows a great virtuosity in balancing a large cast of characters. The men show much ignorance of their religion to great comedic effect, but I still see a wonderful camaraderie here that's carried through to the church. I don't know what Joyce thought about the more esoteric and ecclesiastical elements of the church. For example, how can one not see the absurdity of bishops voting on the matter of the Pope's infallibility? Of course I might be bringing my own biases in, but I also saw some positive aspects of the men getting together and trying to help one another. On the other hand, as you say, the church seems rather ineffectual in the grand scheme of Dublin's degraded state. The men are only casually involved in the church and Father Purdon is teaching a "common man" kind of theology that seems only to justify continued sin (excess).

Does anyone see a redemptive quality to this story (which I assume was originally intended to be the last story since Joyce added "The Dead" later)? Probably not. I don't get the feeling Joyce was trying to do put a happy spin on any of these stories. The camaraderie I mentioned can also be seen as a sort of mutual delusion.


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