Joyce, the escape from his reality
Among the artists who lived in this period it is worth to underline the personality of James Joyce, who distinguished himself for many innovative narration techniques.
The main ones are the stream of consciousness and the interior monologue which are used to recreate the characters’ intimate thoughts that flow freely and random.
His major peculiarity was the connection between the themes of his works and his private life: the principal character of the short story Eveline (included in Dubliners) tried to escape from her native city as he did himself.
He was born in Dublin in 1882 but his interest was a broader European culture. He established himself on the continent and spent some time in Paris, but his mother’s fatal illness brought him back to Dublin. Here he met and fell in love with Nora Barnacle and he moved to Italy, settling in Trieste. In 1914 he wrote Dubliners and Exiles and in the following years he moved to Zurich.
In 1922 was also published Ulysses. He died in Switzerland in 1941.
All his works are set in Ireland and mostly in Dublin, that seemed to him the centre of paralysis. This is the main theme of his masterpiece Dubliners, and is both physical, resulting from external forces, and moral, linked to religion, politics and culture. The paralysis is the inability to face the narrow-mindedness and the problems. Dubliners are spiritually weak and coming to awareness of their condition they can’t find a way out of “paralysis”. One way can be “escape” that is originated from an impulse caused by a sense of enclosure that many characters experience, but also this led to a failure because none of them succeeds.
We can find those themes in one of the fifteen short stories, Eveline. It’s opened with a particular narrative technique that is also a theme, the epiphany.
Eveline seats at the window, watching the avenue, she things about her family and neighbours. Her mother is dead, she is 19 years old and she is planning to leave Ireland forever. She works very hard, at a store and also at home, where she takes care of her old father, a cruel person with alcohol addiction. She is going to leave Ireland with a sailor named Frank, who owns a home in Buenos Aires; but she loves her father and regrets the idea of leaving him alone at his old age. She remembers her mother’s death, when she promised her to keep the family together as long as she could. Her mother lived a life “of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness” and the fear of that memory strengthens in Eveline the choice to leave. But at the harbor, when the boat was ready to leave she is paralyzed. She cannot go, the world is too frightening. “All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He [Frank] was drawing her into them: he would drown her”. Frank calls her trying to get her to the board with the rush of people. She merely stares at him as if he is a stranger.
This story focuses on the theme of escape: certainly she has every reason to leave, but the memory of what her mother said paralyzed her.
Her attempt to leave Ireland can be considered a metaphor of Joyce’s escape from Dublin. In fact he tried to escape from his native city, that is the emblem of weakness and of narrow - mindedness, and also from his contrast with the Church. His hostility toward it was the revolt of the artist against the official doctrine and the provincial Church which had taken possession of Irish minds. But the conflict was even more painful: it was a conflict between a son and his parents linked to the quest for his artistic potentiality. So, he left Dublin but he didn’t succeed totally in his “escape”: he escaped only physically from his city, remaining psychologically linked to it, as we can see in most of his works, that are set in Dublin.