In Two Gallants, the "fine tart" (p. 58) of a woman that Corley picked up is likely a prostitute or at least a woman; or, as Jackson points out on page 43, a woman "...in low milieux" (or, she could be "an attractive girlfriend" and be know as "free with her favours"). This woman may have been an easy sexual mark, but she was more than that for Corley; she brought him cigars and cigarettes to go along with the sex; she paid "the tram out and back" (p. 60), so she was a "sugar momma" as well as being able to bring a good evening's pleasure to a man that nobody really knew very well. He doesn't even tell his/her name; he speaks without listening to what others are saying. He's obviously an ego case, totally into his own pleasure and damn the rest of the crowd. "She's a fine decent tart..." he says.
On pages 66-67, Joyce goes into great detail to describe the young woman in the blue dress and sailor hat. Joyce makes Corley sound as though he's robotic in his movements; "...Corley's head...turned at every moment towards the young woman's face like a big ball revolving on a pivot." And after Corley's friend Lenehan paces around all evening waiting for Corley to either succeed with the girl or not, all Corley has to show for this evening's activities is a gold coin, perhaps drinking money given to Corley by the girl with "the contented leer" and a "stout short muscular body" (66-67). And so readers are left with the impression that the girl is stuck being the simple person she is, unable to break out into the arms of someone who cares for her as a woman, not just what he can get from her and the pleasure he can derive from her.
On the very first page of Joyce's story The Boarding House, a reader gets a dose of what a pig and philistine Mr. Mooney is, and so the immediate impression is that poor Mrs. Mooney is paralyzed by her dysfunctional relationship. "One night he went for his wife with the cleaver and she had to sleep in a neighbour's house" (p. 74). What a terrible fate to have married a man who was a "...shabby stooped little drunkard with a white face and a white moustache and white eyebrows, penciled above his little eyes, which were pink-veined and raw."
And as the story moves along, the emphasis shifts onto Polly, Mrs. Mooney's daughter. Polly - a lovely 19-year-old who has been allowed to intermingle with the various male residents at her mother's boardinghouse - will apparently make the same bad decisions when it comes to her husband, just like her mother did. The gentleman who had an affair with Polly (Bob) is a drunkard in his own right, and Polly, by offering her sexual charms to Bob, has dipped her toe into the world that her mother is stuck in. So, though it can't be technically called "paralysis," it is, nonetheless, a kind of trap that Polly has sprung for herself, and now she is trapped in a marriage that shows all the promise of dullness and pathos, and for good measure, mixing alcohol in with a lack of integrity and moral purpose. Like mother, like daughter? It would appear to be so; and the fact that Polly's mother seemingly drew a confession of sexual impropriety out of Bob, and demanded that as a result of his tryst with Polly, he must marry her, puts both mother and daughter into situations that neither of them would appear to be strong enough to extract themselves from.
In the story Counterparts, there is but a brief glimpse of a woman who is trapped in an unpleasant circumstance from which she is not likely to extract herself. Ada Farrington, the wife Mr. Farrington, can dish it out as well as take it, apparently. She was a "sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk." Judging from the amount of drinking he did, it would be easy to speculate that he did most of the bullying, and when a man is drunk and bullying, that can be a brutal combination, and a woman with five children (who would have to stay at home a good portion of the time while the husband was out in pubs) is obviously stuck in the reality of her unhealthy relationship. She was no doubt partially paralyzed, at least, and that is not a pleasant condition.
Maria is truly locked into her position...
One woman raises her cup in a toast to Maria but the rest do not participate - giving the impression that she's appreciated, but taken for granted too. She was certainly a homely woman, too, stuck with a nose so long that when she laughed "the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin" (p. 131). That almost sounds like a witch's nose. "Maria seems unwilling to fact the fact that not everything is perfect," writes Jackson on page 94 of his annotated text.
And she "hardly notices that the 'stylish young lady' in the cake shop in Henry Street is unpleasant to her"; and here she is, supposedly the "peace-maker," and yet she creates the tension and anger between Joe, Mrs. Donnelly and the children, Jackson points out.
And the reader wonders if she is wearing the blindfold during the entire short story, and not just during the Halloween game, since she seems to see only what she wishes to see. She and the term "clay" have a connection that Joyce has cunningly crafted; clay is the dough from which human beings are made, of course, and that's about all Maria can claim for herself. Too bad a woman with a good heart is stuck so deep in the mud of her non-existent social standing.
Painful Case ends up with Mrs. Emily Sinico not just paralyzed, but dead. Her life prior to her demise was not very exciting nor interesting, and rather bleak in fact. As to the question of why intimate personal information would be revealed in a newspaper article, even a reporting of the trial to establish guilt or innocence, this is a James Joyce short story, so readers accept that. But the story within the story about poor Emily is that her husband reported to the newspaper that the couple was happy until two years before her demise, when she "began to be rather intemperate in her habits," according to her husband's interview with the newspaper (p. 143).
And to make the story even more dark and gloomy, the daughter said in the newspaper that her mother had been going out "at night to buy spirits," and that the daughter "had often tried to reason with her mother..." But after the fact of her death, the protagonist immediately doubts his own judgment in having an affair with her, and assumes that she took her own life. She was so lonely, he believed, as to sit night after night "alone in that room." Now he, too, "would be lonely...until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became a memory - if anyone remembered him" (p. 146). "Why had he sentenced her to death?" he wondered, thinking extremely guilty thoughts that did not seem justified; and as a result of his sadness he felt "...his moral nature falling to pieces." Even the lovers down in the park "filled him with despair... [and] wished him gone." Nobody wanted him, he had "sentenced" the now-deceased Emily to "ignominy, a death of shame." By the fact of her terrible final demise, Joyce has created another woman who suffers in paralysis - this time, permanent paralysis of thought and body. And the paralysis seemed to creep over into the life of her one-time lover, the story's lamenting protagonist.
Mrs. Kearny has a history of near-constant frustration in A Mother, and here is another female character in a James Joyce short story who finds herself boxed into the reality of her times and her environment. During Joyce's experiences in Dublin, women were not exactly involved in liberation movements; quite the contrary, as Mrs. Kearny discovers in this short story, her assertiveness does not produce the results she has hoped for. Readers get a hint on page 173 that Mrs. Kearny is going to be pushy with regards to her daughter's piano talent; "She entered heart and soul into the details of the enterprise, advised and dissuaded," until it was agreed her daughter Kathleen would be paid "eight guineas" for accompanying at four concerts. But being too pushy was Mrs. Kearny's undoing; she was just being herself. "I have my contract…
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