After reading both James Joyce's short story "Painful Case" and Roberta Jackson's subsequent essay "Open Closet in Dubliners," I find myself in disagreement Jackson's analysis of the story. I believe she stretches too far in trying to prove that the story has an underlying homosexual undertone.
Admittedly, I struggle at times with reading deeper within a text. That being said though, I still can't see the blatant, repressed homosexual in James Duffy that Jackson sees. Jackson says, "Duffy's social isolation is not fundamentally due to his neuroticism, but rather his neuroticism arises from his necessary isolation and his need to distance himself from the homophobia of the patriarchy" (336). I don't agree with this interpretation. I see Duffy as a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive figure, and this is what causes his loneliness in the world. I fail to see how Jackson finds this "need to distance himself."
For me, Duffy lives by an uber-strict moral and societal code, and that is why he can't allow himself to act on his attraction to Mrs. Sinico. It is their age difference, not his homosexuality, which forces him to reject her. I think Duffy is romantically attracted to Mrs. Sinico, but he knows that society will disapprove of the age difference between the two of them. Duffy is unable to brush away what society thinks, and thus must reject Mrs. Sinico and his only real chance at true happiness. Duffy is neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, and uptight, but I don't see how these characteristics necessarily point to his being a homosexual, as Jackson believes.