What I found most stimulating throughout the readings was the extent to which our last class on Joyce had hit upon a crucial theme: the problem of paradigms/structures that stunt human development. Although this is not the exclusive argument of Lukacs, he does appear to develop his opinion of Joyce-esque literature from that seed. He claims “man . . . is by nature solitary, asocial, unable to enter into relationships with other human beings” (1219 Luksas). A great part of me agreed with him here because I sympathized that the inability to develop relationships with other human beings is largely due to (as we contended in class) the structures in society that restrict them. And there’s a lot of evidence for this in Dubliners; take “The Sisters” for one. The speaker was limited or otherwise restricted from developing his friendship with the priest because the family structure ruled against it: “I wouldn’t let children of mine,” [Mr. Cotter] finally said, “to have too much to say to a man like that. . . . What I mean is,” said old Cotter, “it’s bad for children. My idea is: let a young lad run about and play with young lads of his own age and not be…Am I right, Jack?” “That’s my principle, too,” said my uncle” (2 Joyce).
However, there are also characters that depend on the social structure, and are considered simultaneously a vital and repulsive character by it. Specifically, Maria from “Clay.” This particular passage intrigued me: “They led [Maria] up to the table amid laughing and joking and she put her hand out in the air as she was told to do. . . . She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers and was surprised that nobody spoke or took off her bandage. There was a pause for a few seconds; and then a great deal of scuffling and whispering. . . . Maria understood that it was wrong that time and so she had to do it over again: and this time she got the prayer-book” (68 Joyce). While Maria is a celebrated character in her social circle, when she breaks the social code unconsciously, the social embarrassment she causes is heightened, possibly as a result to her grotesque appearance. While I believe it’s true that “[the hero] does not develop through contact with the world; he neither forms nor is formed by it” and that “the only “development” in this literature is the gradual revelation of the human condition,” I believe the placement of characters within/without history and their relationship with social order is more complex than Luckas is willing to credit (1220 Lukacs).
Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Dover Publications, 1991. Print.