The character that James Joyce portrays in his collection of short stories, Dubliners, is attempting to escape unsatisfying conditions that he find himself in during childhood. In three of the stories, "Sisters," "The Encounter" and "Araby," the main character hopes to escape the pressures of society and in the case of the three stories he does escape. Yet while he escapes on the surface, the character does not break away from the internal feelings he has. Joyce leaves his character with the hope of escaping his oppressive environment, but without hope of escaping feelings that accompany death, monotony and the emotions that occur from awakening to the physical and mental attraction to girls.
In the story "Sisters" the boy attempts to escape the reality of death. In the beginning he thinks, "if he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse." In his mind, not seeing the reflection of the candles serves to push away the reality of what he knows is imminent death. He attempts to escape the reality of death, even when it is confirmed that his friend, the priest has died. "I knew that I was under observation so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me." He is reacting matter-of-factly, trying to hide his true feelings from his family, as well as from himself. He is...
Later in a dream, he struggles to escape the feelings that he will inevitably encounter when he finally accepts that death has come to his friend. "In the dark of my room I imagined that I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the blankets over my head and tried to think of Christmas. But the grey face still followed me." His suppressed feelings of grief will not leave him alone.
He only allows himself to confront death when he sees the note announcing the passing of the priest. Yet he cannot escape the conflicting feelings that go on in his mind, as if accepting and not accepting his grief at the same time. He wanders off and tries to think of something else as shown in following sentence: "I walked away slowly along the sunny side of the street, reading all the theatrical advertisements in the shop-windows as I went." On one hand he feels a sense of liberation from acknowledging the death and on the other hand his mind goes back to what he would be doing if the priest were still alive. In other words, he is not liberated and has not escaped the feelings that come with losing someone he cares for.
Through the idle chatter of the sisters in the room where the priest lies in a coffin, Joyce allows the conversation to skim across the boy's mind, leaving the reader with the impression that the boy will not be able to escape the grief that accompanies death.
In "The Encounter" there are also two themes of escape presented. The first is the escape that the school boy feels when reading Wild West stories. Reading the stories offers him a chance to escape the monotony of everyday life. His hunger for escape is shown in the sentence: "but when the restraining influence of the school was at a distance I began to hunger again for wild sensations, for the escape which those chronicles of disorder alone seemed to offer me."
When the teacher reprimands the students for reading such things during class, the boy does find escape and adventure in Dublin as he…
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