James Joyce's "The Sisters" is full of Christian symbolisms. They play a very important part in the story because the symbolism accomplishes the story (by giving new meanings to things/behaviors) and most important-helps us understand it better. While reading "The Sisters" carefully and looking "between the lines" for things (with symbolic meaning) that are only hinted at and not said openly we can discover many interesting things that can bee seen only by understanding the symbols' meanings. One of the first symbols in the story is in the Father Flynn character (he is a priest). The Church is symbolized by the priest because he stands for all the clergy of the Catholic Church. He has followed the rules of the church, he has
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The inference of the word "idle" is that this object/symbol of the priesthood is now "empty of meaning". The priest did not break the chalice himself. That means that he was not capable of looking for the truth, he was old already, and had got so used to the preaching of the church, he had long ago lost the ability to question. The breviary, the book of rules that had fallen to the floor could be interpreted as a symbol of priests feeling of freedom of the religious captivity of the church. "Whenever I'd bring in his soup to him there, I'd find him with his breviary fallen to the floor, lying back in the chair.."(6) This means that in the end the priest had abandoned the Church. He
- 3 - was disappointed of it. His sister said: "
he was a disappointed man"(6). The objects that the boy saw in his dream: long velvet curtains and a swinging lamp of antique fashion have symbolic meanings and they hint at sexuality. The boy tries to recollect the last part of the dream and remembers "
I had noticed long velvet curtains and swinging lamp of antique fashion" (4). The velvet curtains symbolize sensuality and the swinging lamp is an erotic symbol. Other symbols that give us hints which reinforce the argument of the sexual implications in the priest's case are Joyce's description of Father Flynn's mouth (tongue that lies on the lower lip, his smile). "When he smiled he used to