Concealed Realism In James Joyce's True Purpose

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Tuğrul Can Sümen
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IED 134 (02) – Study Skills and Research Techniques

Concealed Realism in “Clay” and Joyce’s True Purpose

When we think of a kind and gentle old maid in a story, who is beloved by everyone, delighting her friends with a thoughtful present, playing with children or singing a moving song, we generally feel many eloquent emotions. We would approve her politeness and admire her personality. But what if, all of a sudden, we realize that this was all an elaborate ruse, as she is actually exactly opposite of her representation, what would we feel? Certainly, incongruities are expected in all short stories, as it’s a feature that defines the genre, but when such incongruities are so carefully
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In his short story “Clay”, Joyce deceives the reader, by introducing a seemingly heart-warming story about an old maid, but the story is actually a parade of pessimism, as the characters, the setting and the plot hide grim details, which actually reveals Joyce’s pessimistic perspective of Ireland. Joyce’s deception begin with characters, as their delusions, intentions and regrets are initially unperceivable. Maria, for example, gives the impression that she is a kind and old maid, but actually Joyce represents her as a witch. We know that it is the Halloween, a night that is associated with witches. We also know that, she has witch-like features: “…she had a very long nose and a very long chin” (309). Joyce even exaggerates this trait: “…when she laughed her grey-green eyes sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin” (311). Towards the end of story, we also get the impression that children don’t like Maria. Just like in a fairy tale, in which children mock and stone the witch, children trick Maria, by putting clay in fortune-telling cups. After discovering these evidences, we realize that protagonist of our story, is …show more content…
As the readers slowly rise from the illusion, they wander, what if there’s more to this story? In fifth chapter of The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce, Leonard states that “ I, for example, have taught Dubliners for many years, but every time I present it to first time readers I learn something new” ( 90 ). What if Maria represented something much more than catches the eye? And what if Joyce wasn’t so obstinate, and allowed sentimentality in his work? How would “Clay” end? Would Maria finally found the love of her life? We will probably never know the answers to these questions, but all this speculation makes it obvious that Joyce left this world a true masterpiece, and this questions will boggle minds of many readers for centuries to

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