Religion As A Captor
A collection of short stories published in 1907, Dubliners, by James Joyce,
revolves around the everyday lives of ordinary citizens in Dublin, Ireland (Freidrich

166). According to Joyce himself, his intention was to "write a chapter of the
moral history of [his] country and [he] chose Dublin for the scene because the
city seemed to [b]e the centre of paralysis" (Friedrich 166). True to his
goal, each of the fifteen stories are tales of disappointment, darkness,
captivity, frustration, and flaw. The book is divided into four sections:
childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life (Levin 159). The structure of
the book shows that gradually, citizens become trapped in Dublin society (Stone

140). The stories portray Joyce’s feeling that Dublin is the epitome of
paralysis and all of the citizens are victims (Levin 159). Although each story
from Dubliners is a unique and separate depiction, they all have similarities
with each other. In addition, because the first three stories – The Sisters,

An Encounter, and Araby parallel each other in many ways, they can be seen as a
set in and of themselves. The purpose of this essay is to explore one particular
similarity in order to prove that the childhood stories can be seen as specific
section of Dubliners. By examining the characters of Father Flynn in The

Sisters, Father Butler in An Encounter, and Mangan’s sister in Araby, I will
demonstrate that the idea of being held captive by religion is felt by the
protagonist of each story. In this paper, I argue that because religion played
such a significant role in the lives of the middle class, it was something that
many citizens felt was suffocating and from which it was impossible to get away.

Each of the three childhood stories uses religion to keep the protagonist
captive. In The Sisters, Father Flynn plays an important role in making the
narrator feel like a prisoner. Mr. Cotter’s comment that "... a young lad
[should] run about and play with young lads of his own age..." suggests that
the narrator has spent a great deal of time with the priest. Even in death, the
boy can not free himself from the presence of Father Flynn (Stone 169) as is
illustrated in the following passage: "But the grey face still followed me. It
murmured; and I understood that it desired to confess something. I felt my soul
receding into some pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found it
waiting for me". The boy feels the need to get away from the priest, but this
proves to be impossible. When he ran away into his "pleasant and vicious
region", the priest was still there—haunting him. In fact, even before the
narrator is thoroughly convinced that the priest is dead, he is worried that

Father Flynn will haunt him (Stone 169): "In the dark of my room I imagined
that I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the blankets over
my head and tried to think of Christmas". These passages convey the idea that
the boy was afraid of the priest and felt somewhat freed by his death. This is
further proven when the boy, after having seen the card announcing the death of
the priest, thinks it "strange that neither [he] nor the day seemed in a
mourning mood and [he] even felt annoyed at discovering in [him]self a sensation
of freedom as if [he] had been freed from something by [Father Flynn’s]
death". This feeling of freedom suggests that the boy understood that he was a
captive of Father Flynn, and thereby, also a captive of the church. With the

Father’s death, perhaps the death of his captivity came as well. The idea of
religious bondage can be seen in An Encounter by examining the relationship
between the boys and Father Butler. When Leo Dillion is caught reading The

Apache Chief in class, "everyone’s heart palpitated" as Father Butler
frowns and looks over the pages. Shortly thereafter, the narrator claims that

"[t]his rebuke...paled much of the glory of the Wild West...But when the
restraining influence of school was at a distance [he] began to hunger again for
wild sensations...". This passage demonstrates the control the church has over
the opinions and thoughts of the narrator. In addition, if Father Butler is
considered a symbol of the church, the fear felt by the students at the prospect
of his disapproval and the freedom they feel when the "restraining
influence" of the church was at a distance prove the suffocating nature of
religion. It is from this