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A Mother Critical Analysis

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A Mother'

'A Mother' is one of the short stories that is part of James Joyce's literary masterpiece Dubliners. The themes that run through this short story, and indeed the book itself, are: Simony, Gnomon and Paralysis. 'A Mother' is written in third person omniscient narration and focuses mainly on the point of view of Mrs Kearney. Who is, as I will try to justify further on, a serial simoniac and a victim of social convention.

The first example of Mrs Kearney's simony is her marriage to Mr Kearney, a bootmaker, who is far older than her. She married, not for love, but in order to keep her status in society respectable: "her friends began to loosen their tongues about her she silenced them by marrying" (pg 153) Another example of Mrs Kearney's simony is when she manipulates Mr Holohan into signing into a contract with her daughter. She plies him with alcohol and lends a friendly hand in drawing up the terms of the contract. I believe that when Mrs Kearney is being said to have "slipped the doubtful items in between the old favourites" (pg 155) as she and Mr Holohan are placing the performers in order for the concert, that Joyce is also hinting that this is what Mrs Kearney had done with the contract. She has confused Holohan with drink so that she can secure a high price for her daughter's part in the concert.

This story is full of the theme of the gnomon also. In the beginning we learn that Mr and Mrs Kearney have two daughters, yet we never learn the younger daughter's name, nor is she mentioned much. This information is missing . There is also an incomplete amount of money. Mrs Kearney never receives full payment. It is this which is the source of her revengefulness and anger during the progression of the tale. I believe also that Mr Kearney is a gnomic character, in the eyes of his society at least. He is an incomplete man who is controlled by his wife. He does not stand up to her, even in public and this lessens himself as a man in society

She depersonalises her husband by saying "She appreciated his abstract value as a male" (pg 159)

Paralysis casts a dark shadow over this story. Characters who I believe to be the most affected are Mr Kearney and Mrs Kearney herself. He is paralysed by his stale marriage and ruled by her. It is notable that he does not speak throughout the entire story. When Holohan tries to evoke a reaction from him concerning his wife's behaviour he merely "continued to stroke his beard" (pg 164) He is

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