Friday, March 14, 2008

Joyce's "A Painful Case" & Jackson's "Open Closet in Dubliners"

In his "Open Closet in Dubliners," Jackson correctly diagnoses Mr. Duffy and his explanations satisfactorily account for the vast majority of Mr. Duffy's behavior in "A Painful Case." Duffy's own entry into his diary is the most convincing piece of evidence for Jackson's case, that being Mr. Duffy is in fact a repressed homosexual; he quotes, "Love between man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse." The second part of this statement applies directly to Mr. Duffy's final encounter with Mrs. Sinico, yet it is secondary in nature to the first statement which Jackson applies to Mr. Duffy himself, which depicts Mr. Duffy's problematic relationship with an increasingly homophobic society.

Furthermore, Jackson's article appropriately addresses the confusing and abundant food and apetite metaphors which appear throughout "A Painful Case," such as that of the rotten apple, the bile beans, and the arrowroot biscuits. I was not satisfied with the theoretical structure which becomes the climax and mainstay of Jackson's argument: that of the opened closet. Jackson's argument depends upon equating Duffy's state of mind one shared by his author: that of James Joyce himself. Not only is Jackson's evidence sparse and insufficient, but this justification is ultimately irrelevant to his argument and it could very well proceed without it, applying exclusively to the model of the repressed homosexual created in the fictitious Mr. Duffy alone.

I do not find Jackson's description of the opened closet to be particularly compelling either. Mr. Duffy's behavior insists upon an individual who refrains from sexual contact with either gender, but none of his behavior is indicative of a man who guards a secret while at the same time announcing it to the entire public. Consider the behavior of Mrs. Sinico, was she not ignorant of Mr. Duffy's sexuality in her own attempts at intimacy with Mr. Duffy? Does the rest of Mr. Duffy's behavior not depict the evasive actions of a man who is keeping a guarded secret? I know not where Jackson intends to procure evidence of Mr. Duffy's hidden sexuality "passing into public consciousness." Without appropriating Mr. Duffy with Joyce, Jackson's argument falls short of anything conclusive.


Shawn said...

To some extent I agree with both Joel and Thomas on the subject matter of Jackson's analysis of "A Painful Case." While I agree with their assertation that Jackson's evidence is lacking, I would like to add that for me it was not so much the lack of evidence, but it was the lack of a solid rebuttal to the viewpoints taken by other scholars that seem to somewhat contradict her own thesis. For example; Jackson cites Charles H. Peake as commenting that Duffy is an "unhuman egoist" and as a man that chooses "the cold, dark, silent world of his isolation." This seems to contradict Jackson's notion of Duffy being a repressed homosexual, as Joel also stated. Rather than making a counterpoint to that statement, Jackson simply assimilates it into her own ideas, even though she is kind of putting the square peg in the round whole. This is where I agree with Thomas. Once again referring back to the Peake quote, which I also agree with, it seems to me that Duffy is not a repressed homosexual in the sense that there is nobody to hide his sexual orientation from, as he lives by himself away from the city and does not socialize. It would appear that Duffy is a character that believes in little more than himself, which can be observed by the fact that he sometimes talks "just to hear his own voice" and thought he would rise to an "angelic status" in the eyes of Emily, and because of his lack of belief in the outside world there is no reason for him to be considered a repressed homosexual.

I... said...

Joel and Shawn,
How do you feel about the idea that "A Painful Case" is abve all a hint to James Joyce's relationship to Nora Barnacle?