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Fruitless Labor : Love and Marriage in Joyce’s Dubliners

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Government Relations
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  1. Dubliners expresses an evolution of love which progresses from innocent infatuation.
  2. One reason why Dublin's emotional life is so stunted - adults are already too scarred from youthful encounters.
  3. The development of romance in Dubliners.
  4. The idea of actually leaving Dublin, miserable though it is for Eveline is too great a departure from life as she knows it.
  5. Her plan is foolproof, but partly because neither her daughter nor Mr. Doran are fighting it.
  6. Lily's severe disillusionment about love and marriage may be a foreshadowing of difficulties to come for the happy couple.

In his first novel, a collection of short stories meant to express the paralytic nature of turn-of-the-century Dublin, James Joyce establishes an image of the Irish urban center as a degenerate bed of unhappiness, deprivation, depression, and imprisonment. All of his characters face the daily trials of unsatisfying jobs, emotional isolation, and violent family members, and their stale hopes of escape and empowerment are unable to combat the dreary realities of Dublin life. Trapped in a world not of their own making, these individuals are consumed with loss, frustration, and failure, driven to drink and violence, the result of which being that they lose their capacity to effectively connect with one another, and so are forced to exist in a kind of emotional vacuum. It seems particularly important to Joyce to illustrate the inadequacies of love and marriage to ameliorate the lives of his characters, despite the dreams they have and the efforts they make to use love and marriage to better themselves. No relationship in the book succeeds in expressing that idealized bliss of marital status, and there are only brief moments when any of the couples in Dubliners manage to maintain even a moderate amount of happiness together. Joyce wastes no opportunity to demonstrate yet again the abuse, both verbal and physical, and mutual dislike so common in his Irish families, and demands that the reader acknowledge the unceasing cycle of victimization and failed escape that his characters face. From the youthful infatuation so bitterly dashed in ?Araby? to the destructive truth of past love revealed in ?The Dead,? no relationship is free from pain and suffering. Dubliners expresses an evolution of love which progresses from innocent infatuation, frustrated by immobility, to the onset of marriage as escape from family, poverty, and mundanity, to the ultimate realization that marriage is unable to solve the problems of its participants because love does not endure, and even if it did, Joyce seems to say, the problematic realities of life are too stable, too concrete to be destroyed by the tender emotion of love

[...] Her reverie does address the ?hopes and visions of the future,? but nowhere does she pretend love for him; is it not perfectly plausible that she has been as calculating as her mother in hoping to find a decent man to marry? This marriage is not expected to be one of love by any of the parties; if Mr. Doran did not feel obliged to make some reparation for his sin, he might not have had any intention of proposing, and Mrs. [...]


[...] Lily's severe disillusionment about love and marriage may be a foreshadowing of difficulties to come for the happy couple, however. men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you (Dubliners Lily retorts bitterly when Gabriel lightly teases her about her age and probably imminent marriage. This fierce reaction is indicative of the cynicism with which these Dubliners face the corrupt and pleasure less institution of marriage. Yet Gabriel and Gretta seem the exception to the rule, poking fun at one another good-naturedly, laughing with the Misses Morkan over the silly galoshes Gabriel has instituted. [...]


[...] mundanity, to the ultimate realization that marriage is unable to solve the problems of its participants because love does not endure, and even if it did, Joyce seems to say, the problematic realities of life are too stable, too concrete to be destroyed by the tender emotion of love. Joyce's tales are in some ways impressionistic vignettes of life, seen only momentarily in these brief glimpses. As such, they build upon one another to create a vast web of disappointments and sorrows which seems to descend upon all of life. [...]

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