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Dubliners Essay, Research Paper

Freedom versus Entrapment James Joyce’s Dubliners was written in 1914 right at the onset of World War I breaking out in Europe. It is a journey through the stages of life itself: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, public life and finally death. Each one of the stories in the novel fall into one of these stages. “After the Race” falls into the adolescence aspect of the book. It does this because the characters have not yet grown up. Although they are adults they are still immature. Jimmy is easily fooled into gambling away all of his money. He never regretted it. He was actually happy that Routh won the game and took everyone’s money. Because of actions like this they are very carefree about how they go about with life. The only thing that they want to do is be happy. They were very free, moving about doing whatever they wanted, but a cloud was settling over them. This cloud was entrapment. Most of the story is about how the characters struggled to keep their freedoms over the entrapments. It also touches upon other characters from other stories by paralleling Jimmy to Eveline. “After the Race” is a story in which the ideas of freedom and entrapment are tested and joined as one to prove the overall archetype in Dubliners of paralysis and death. Freedom can be seen throughout this story. Each character presents their own struggle with freedom. The aspect of freedom can also be seen in the setting that is used in “After the Race.” Even the aspect of a race can be thought of as freedom. The drivers are speeding along down windy roads toward an endpoint where there is a reward. While driving the driver can become one with nature. He sees his surroundings and must make split second decisions about what to do. One can see freedom in this. It is the freedom of choice. In Dubliners as a whole many characters struggle with this freedom. It is no different in the story of “After the Race.” The race that is spoken about has a long history of running. It is run once every four years. The course itself has long mountain climbs through Achill Island, Kerry, Cork and Wicklow and a fast frenetic route from Criterium to Dublin’s O’Connell Street and Parnell Square. It consists of one hundred twelve kilometers through Slane, Navan, Clonee and Lucan. The roads that the race is run on are always shut down. The drivers pass through beautiful scenery and are greeted in Dublin by thousands of spectators. The finish line to the race is in front of the President’s house. 1 The race car itself also brings a sense of freedom to the reader of the story. Joyce writes, “How smoothly it ran. In what style they had come careering along the country roads! The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blue animal.”2 This shows how they viewed the complex machinery of a race car as a sort of freedom. “Today many people still view the idea of complex machinery as freedom because of mankind’s control over nature.”3 The city to city races that would take place along European country side around the turn of the century were a “sport of beauty in which even spectators were free to interact with the drivers.”4 The passengers of the car were even experiencing their own freedoms. Joyce writes, “In one of these trimly built cars was a party of four young men whose spirits seemed to be at present well above the level of successful Gallicism: in fact, these four young men were almost hilarious.” 5 The men in the car were very carefree. “They knew that they would probably not win this race, but continued to go about their merry ways.” 6 They cruised through the countryside and into the crowded streets of Dublin knowing that they had lost the race. Garrett says they were proud of their achievement of making it through the entire race. 7 There is the same sense of freedom that was involved with the race. That freedom is the freedom of being one with nature. If they were not feeling this freedom then loosing the race would have most likely come down harder on them. They were extremely happy in the event of losing this race. A different, but highly related sense of freedom comes about from the passengers themselves. An example of this comes when Villona is singing in the car; “Decidedly Villona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a deep bass hum of melody for miles of the road.”8 He was just enjoying the ride and trying to amuse himself at the same times. The two Frenchmen also experienced this too; “The Frenchmen flung their laughter and light words over their shoulders and often Jimmy had to strain forward to catch the quick phrase.”9 They were having great fun while they were driving. Jimmy was trying to become a part of all of this, but was unable to keep up with the Frenchmen in their conversation. A very subtle view of freedom comes when Jimmy and his friend leave the race car on the streets of Dublin. Joyce writes “Near the Bank Segouin drew up and Jimmy and his friend alighted.”10 They were very happy to be in the car, but were very anxious to get out of the car. In this sequence Jimmy mirrors Eveline from “Eveline” and her anxiousness to start a new life. However, unlike Eveline, Jimmy is actually able to leave and move on. Another view of this is given by John Bayley. He writes that the two young Irishmen leave the car filled with the Frenchmen and the Hungarian it is somewhat a view of Ireland trying to become an independent nation.11 However, this can not be clearly seen for Ireland was not trying to escape France of Belgium, but rather England. If the connection that Bayley presents is true then it is extremely subtle. However, later on in the story Joyce writes “The party was increased by a young Englishman named Routh whom Jimmy had seen with Segouin at Cambridge. Bayley makes another point about this. Bayley writes “At this time the British were allied with the French and were friends with the Hungarians.”12 This supports his above claim that Jimmy and his friend represented Ireland’s struggle for freedom. For now the Frenchman and the Hungarian are related to the English through Routh. This claim may not make that much sense, but it does work. Jimmy shows a sense of freedom a bit later on in the story when the reader is given background on his education. Jimmy was at “a big Catholic College”13 in England and was later sent “to Dublin University to study law.”14 At college he went about doing his own stuff instead of studying. Joyce writes, “Jimmy did not study very earnestly and took to bad courses for a while. He had money and he was popular; and he divided his time curiously between musical and motoring circles.” 15 This shows that even though he was sent away to study law his natural interest was with music and cars. This shows his freedom of choice about his own life and what he wanted to learn about. Walter Allen writes, “Jimmy is very well off. He realizes that he does not need an education to further his wealth because he is already rich, however he uses this opportunity to achieve his own status. He purposely slacks off so he can become popular among his piers. He wants to fit in with the rest of his upper class.” 16 Allen is pointing to the reason behind Jimmy’s freedom of choice about his life. He says the reason he does what he wants to do is that he just wants to fit in at school. He makes friends with rich people and gets along with them relatively well. However, later on in the story he is robbed of a lot of money by his friends during a poker game. In the end it might seem that even though Jimmy used his friends to gain status at school, his friends used him for his money. The final bit of freedom besides the final sentence of the story happens at the start of their party aboard Farley’s yacht. Joyce writes, “Villona played a waltz for Farley and Riviere, Farley acting as cavalier and Riviere as lady. Then and impromptu square dance, the men devising original figures.”17 This passages shows the freedom in the form of playfulness and youth. Garrett writes, “The piano playing and dancing shows that the young adults are still in fact children in a sense. They could care less about how they looked in front of their piers. Their only wish was to have fun and celebrate.”18 This just about shows how they started off the party. Joyce then writes, “They drank, however: it was Bohemian. They drank Ireland, England, France, Hungary, the United States of America. Jimmy mad a speech, a long speech, Villona saying Hear! hear! whenever there was a pause. There was a great clapping of hands when he sat down. It must have been a good speech.”19 In this sequence of passages it seems as if the characters move from childhood to adulthood in an instance. They are starting to get drunk. One reason being they drank to six different countries. The other that they were already drinking on top of that. The freedom that this proposes is the freedom of adulthood. In that sense being that adults have the freedom of drinking at social events without having to worry about any repercussions. At one point in the story we see the characters move from freedom to tight entrapment and at the last second when the entrapment looks as though it will conquer the party, it is destroyed by the escape. Joyce shows this in the following passage: They talked volubly and with little reserve. Jimmy, whose imagination was kindling, conceived the lively youth of the Frenchmen twined elegantly upon the firm framework of the Englishman’s manner. A graceful image of his, he thought, and a just one. He admired the dexterity with which their host directed the conversation. The five young men had various tastes and their tongues had been loosened…….Here was the congenial ground for all….The room grew doubly hot and Segouin’s task grew harder each moment: there was even danger of personal spite. The alert host at an opportunity lifted his glass to Humanity and, when the toast had been drunk, he threw open a window significantly.20 This passages shows the turning point in the story of where freedom and entrapment actually come together for the first time in this story. At the beginning of the passage the guest are all comfortable and relaxed. They eat dinner and then begin to have conversations. The actual conflict between freedom and entrapment comes when Villona is trying to ridicule the great romantic painters. Seguoin suddenly changes the subject to politics. The room began to get very uncomfortable and Seguoin had a much harder time trying to get his point across. He was most likely going to make a fool out of himself. The host realizes this and quickly proposes a toast. He most likely did this to deter the guests from realizing that Sequin was blabbering on about nothing. Vargas Llosa comments on this by saying, “the toast was highly needed for Seguoin was beginning to feel trapped in a bad situation. He could not easily get out of this, so the toast was a great diversion from him. However, to clear things up the window was definitely needed to be opened. The opening of the window provided a calming effect over the guests.”21 Vargas Llosa hits the entrapment motif on target. He helps support the contradiction of freedom versus entrapment throughout “After the Race.” Moving into the motif of entrapment, the clustered streets of Dublin are shown. This following quote from Joyce shows that there was a literal and figurative sense to the streets being an entrapment. Joyce writes, “They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual traffic, loud with the horns of motorists and the gongs of impatient tram-drivers.”22 This literally shows the entrapped state of the city. Jimmy and his friend had to later make their way through this crowd. Now comes the figurative aspect of this passage. Garrett writes, “The loud horns and gongs of the tram-drivers alludes to the Book of Revelation. When the Lord is ready to make his second coming, the trumpets of archangels are going to be blown all round the earth. Every human will hear them. It will dawn the beginning of the end.”23 What Garrett claims fits in with the paralysis and death motif’s that are found throughout the novel. This is just a very subtle example of death. Villona is also entrapped by a certain feeling and that is hunger. Although hunger might not seem as a great entrapment, it is argued by Vargas Llosa that it is. The passage in the novel by Joyce that tells of Villona’s situation is the following, “His father, therefore, was unusually friendly with Villona and his manner expressed a real respect for foreign accomplishments; but this subtlety of his host was probably lost upon the Hungarian, who was beginning to have a sharp desire for dinner.” 24 He could not pay attention to what Jimmy’s father was speaking to him about because he was entrapped by his selfishness. All he wanted to do was eat for he was hungry. Vargas Llosa comments on this when he says, “Villona was held back by one of mankind’s natural instincts, hunger. He could not help himself if all he thought about was food. Jimmy’s father should have honored Villona’s intuition for Villona was already in his own view of things.”25 What he said in that excerpt was that it was more or less instinct that made Villona not pay attention. Any person on this planet would probably do the exact same thing Villona did. Hunger is a very hard feeling not too notice. When you are a man of Villona’s size of course hunger is going to encompass your thoughts. You can not think of anything but it. Therefore, hunger was entrapping Villona and this was not the only time in the story. One of the final issues of entrapment comes from the card game. Joyce tells of this when he writes, “Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.’s for him. They were devils of fellow but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.”26 This passage shows that Jimmy was entrapped because he was unable to get out of the card game. He was losing so much money that he had to have the others keep track of it for him. Vargas Llosa says, “He was entrapped by the greed of his friends. They did not want to stop until Jimmy and the American were both broke. In essence the friends were in face the ‘devils of fellow’ that Joyce claims them to be.”27 Vargas Llosa is right about his claim. It was hinted at earlier in the story that some of his friends were only friends with Jimmy because he was rich. This was the final push that lets the reader become aware of their intentions towards Jimmy. The final and most important entrapment is the effect of alcohol on the characters. An example of needless drinking comes from Joyce when he writes, “They drank the health of the Queen of Hearts and of the Queen of Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the lack on an audience: the wit was flashing.”28 Drinking to characters pictured on a deck of cards is ridiculous. They were enjoying themselves, but there was no need for drinking like that. The alcohol made the characters extremely unaware of what they were doing during the card game. This lead to them not being able to keep track of money. This entrapment of alcohol hindered Jimmy, however, his friends gained from it because they took all of his money. Drinking might be a part of Irish culture, but it entraps the mind. So, in this sense the alcohol was the final entrapment that helps connect the story to the greater whole of the novel. Paralysis and death are very strong motif’s throughout Dubliners. Many different characters are paralyzed in one way or another, whether it being literally or figuratively they are. In “After the Race” the paralysis comes in the form of alcohol because it rendered the characters vulnerable to each others greed. “After the Race” is also a story in which childhood freedoms are challenged by adult entrapments and that is why it is classified as being in the adolescence group. That is what adolescence is in a whole, childhood freedom versus adult entrapments. Joyce does a very good job in interconnecting these two ideas in the story. He structured characters around this that at first seemed strong and self-motivated, but soon the reader comes to find out that they are in fact weak. “After the Race” is the perfect way to depict human adolescence because it is very on target. Endnotes

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