Summary of "The Sisters"
"The Sisters" (the text link) is the first story found in James Joyce's Dubliners. Giving you a brief summary of the story it is about a unnamed narrator, a boy. This boy had been great friends with a priest, Father Flynn. Father Flynn had just died. The boy had been waiting for his death. After his death the boy was trying to come to terms at losing his friend. This priest had taught the boy lots of great things but the boy was having trouble feeling sad. He missed his friend and yet he felt free now that he was dead. This story is unique because Joyce does not give us all the information. There are many details that are left out.
When I was finished with the story the only thing that I thought was, what? I was very confused. I wanted to know what happened to the priest that made him go crazy. I wanted to know about the little boy and what he thought about everything. We are let into his mind at the beginning of the story but as the tale progresses it becomes more of a third person story and we are told nothing of the boy's thoughts.
After looking around online over the past few months on various blogs and other sites I thinking I can understand "The Sisters" a little more. It really helps that I have discovered more about James Joyce's past. (See Shocking Discovery, and James Joyce as Young Man, and Finding James Joyce blogs). Just as I mentioned in a previous blog, Paint on the Brain, there are symbols all over the place. It is just that way in this story. "The Sisters" could very well be James Joyce's own commentary of his disillusionment of the Catholic Church.
James Joyce went to Catholic school and learned lots. This priest, Father Flynn, is a representation of the Catholic Church. This little boy has learned so much from Father Flynn which is why he feels guilty of being free of him. I am not sure that James Joyce ever felt guilty about leaving the Catholic Church but he did acknowledge their help in his education. Just as the little boy becomes distant from his emotions, James Joyce has distanced himself from the church.
Now as I have been reading other opinions of "The Sisters" I have discovered a little secret about Father Flynn. I have mentioned before about the controversy surrounding the publication of Dubliners in both my Reading Views blog and James Joyce as a Young Man mentioned earlier.
Father Flynn's symptoms were apparently similar to someone having syphilis, which is a sexual transmitted disease, saying that Father Flynn had a less than honorable past. His sisters were taking about his deteriorating condition and how at one point he was found in the confession box laughing. These factors reveal that Father Flynn was a fallen man. James Joyce believed the Catholic Church to be fallen and that their teachings were deranged, which is exactly what Father Flynn became.
James Joyce seems to be frustrated with the paralysis that has taken hold of the Irish people, especially those in Dublin. He believes that people need to escape Dublin to really succeed in life but feels that most do not escape because they can't. Father Flynn in the last part of his life suffers actual paralysis and not figurative paralysis. In my blog Blogs of Understanding I mention how other's have noticed this paralysis or refusal to give up their beloved home.
Sorry that this blog ran kind of long. This story confused me the most and so I have been looking at it the most. The more I learn about James Joyce the more I understand the story.