Having found a pen, with some difficulty I copied them out in a large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so that I could read them. For the next few years Joyce worked rapidly on the book, adding what would become chapters I. Joyce wrote to Weaver in late that he had "explained to [Stephens] all about the book, at least a great deal, and he promised me that if I found it madness to continue, in my condition, and saw no other way out, that he would devote himself heart and soul to the completion of it, that is the second part and the epilogue or fourth.
Each time, the boy thinks of the word paralysis. Old Cotter has come to the house to share the news that Father Flynn is dead. Knowing that everyone waits for his reaction, the boy remains quiet.
While the aunt shuffles food to and from the table, a conversation ensues between the uncle and Old Cotter, and the uncle notes the high hopes Father Flynn had for the boy. He hints that Father Flynn planned to prepare the boy for the priesthood and remarks on the friendship between them.
While the uncle agrees with Old Cotter, the aunt is disturbed that anyone could think critically of Father Flynn. She asks Old Cotter to clarify his point, but Old Cotter trails off and the conversation ends.
Instead of knocking, he walks away and reminisces about the time he spent there. He used to bring Father Flynn snuffing tobacco from his aunt, and Father Flynn would teach him things, such as Latin pronunciation and the parts of the Mass.
All the while the boy remains quiet. Father Flynn suffers from paralyzing strokes and eventually dies, but his deterioration, epitomized by his laughing frenzy in a confessional box, also hints that he was mentally unstable.
The reader never learns exactly what was wrong with him. Similarly, Father Flynn and the young narrator had a relationship that Old Cotter thinks was unhealthy, but that the narrator paints as spiritual when he recounts the discussions he and Father Flynn had about Church rituals.
However, the narrator also has strange dreams about Father Flynn and admits to feeling uncomfortable around him. Joyce presents just enough information so that the reader suspects Father Flynn is a malevolent figure, but never enough so that the reader knows the full story. Such a technique is hinted at in the first paragraph of the story.
Joyce does exactly that: He points to details and suggestions, but never completes the puzzle. Father Flynn plays a fleshly role in the story. His approaching death makes the narrator think of the corpse, which he eventually sees. When Father Flynn dies, the narrator continues to think of his physical presence, particularly the lurid way in which his tongue rested on his lip, and dreams of his face.
Such bizarre physical images evoke the awkward nature of death. In the final scene with the sisters, eating, drinking, and talking become difficult since death frames those activities. After viewing the corpse, the narrator declines the crackers offered because he fears that eating them would make too much noise, as if he might disturb Father Flynn in his coffin.
She asks questions about how Father Flynn died, but her thoughts trail off. Father Flynn may be dead, but in many ways he is still very present among the living. This link between paralysis or inaction to both death and religion underpins all the stories in Dubliners.
Characters face events that paralyze them from taking action or fulfilling their desires, as though they experience a kind of death in life. His sisters also attribute his demise to the strains of clerical life.A summary of “The Sisters” in James Joyce's Dubliners.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Dubliners and what it means.
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