Universal Paralysis

One of the main themes from this week, to me, was the feeling of paralysis. It’s something palpable that can be felt throughout each story in the Dubliners collection. It almost seems as though each character is stuck, trapped by their surroundings, or frozen in time. The series of stories explores the inner workings of Dublin, the hardships that come with urban life, and the people that are born from the conditions. Readers witness life through the eyes of characters from all ages. And the collection is woven together through commentary on the intersection of life and death. 

Dublin in the 1910s (via the National Archives)

“I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism.”

These words come from “The Sisters” and illustrate the narrator’s confusion toward the word “paralysis.” The collection opens by focusing on youth, and we move chronologically throughout the piece to depict old age as the book concludes. 

Less explicitly, another story where I found paralysis was in “The Little Cloud.” The protagonist, Little Chandler, contemplates his life and longs for days of greater excitement, lamenting his current situation. He feels paralyzed by his circumstances. The narrator says: 

“Could he not escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to try to live bravely like Gallaher?”

Lastly, “The Dead” comes full circle and again suggests a feeling of paralysis in the narrative: 

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. 

From reading this passage, I was under the assumption that Gabriel was unable to move forward into modernity, as if he is frozen in time — the snow acting as a symbol for his paralysis.

I thought this collection encapsulated Dublin life in such a raw and intricate way, as if we were being transported to the destination and gaining insight on the people ourselves. It’s as if the nation of Dublin, and its people — both the living and the dead — are united by this frigid paralysis. The figurative feeling of paralysis seems to be universal, no matter if we’re young, middle-aged, or old. 

Dublin, covered in snow (via the World Atlas)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.