The sense of paralysis is often the background context in which James Joyce’s novels develop. In this case, discussing about a development of an action is paradoxically, because events have a round shape and it seems that they repeat over and over the same or in a very similar manner. In this setting there cannot occur any sudden change, any major event, but the life described in the author’s novels is dominated by an inertia, although the expectation of something to happen, to outburst is constantly dominating the Joyce’s writings. This setting can be visible in “The Dubliners” series (“The Sisters”, “Eveline”, “The Dead”), or even “Ulysses”. Just as the characters in these novels, James Joyce lived a significant part of his life in Dublin at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a period that reflected incertitude in an inert city, as Dublin was the “centre of paralysis”. Therefore, he identified himself with many of his character, whether masculine or feminine. Gabriel (“The Dead”) was always performing the same activities and was unaware of his boring, repeated life until he listened the story of a young man who died in the cold of the winter, as he was waiting outside the window of the girl he loved – Gabriel’s actual wife. Even so, besides jealousy and envy because he is not capable of showing his love like the dead man did, Gabriel takes no action to changing his lifestyle. Eveline wanted to get rid of her father’s tyranny; this was her main objective since her mother died. But when the occasion arises and when she has the chance to run away from home with a young man, she becomes paralyzed, unable to act on her intention of leaving her house and she stays home, condemned to a life of pain and unhappiness that she herself chooses. Bowker observes that the image of this paralyzed, inactive city, permanently waiting for something major to occur but never acting upon it, haunted Joyce’s mind and imagination throughout his life (45).
Born in 1882 in Rathagar, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, Joyce has spent his childhood and adolescence there, until 1902 when he graduated school and moved on the continental Europe, staying in Trieste, Zurich or in Paris. After staying a period in Paris with his family (Nora Barnacle and their two children – Lucia and Giorgio), the author decided that France was not a safe country, considering that they were staying there in the period of the second World War, when Germany, Japan and Italy fought against and invaded France. Therefore Joyce takes his family and moves to Switzerland, where he will die, on January 13, 1941, in Zurich (Bowker 49).
The sombre image that dominates his writings may be also the result of the writer’s hard life, characterized by poverty, familial imbalances, diseases (James Joyce suffered several collapses, due to a heart condition, caused by a nervous breakdown), or depression, as Bowker notes (228). Bowker also writes that Joyce suffered of cynophobia, keraunophobia (influences from his childhood), and had an eye disease. The state of depression inherited in his family, as his daughter, Lucia, was suffering of “cris de nerfs” and she often would indicate her mental illness through her actions (Bowker 433). Lucia and Giorgio were Joyce’s and Nora Barnacle’s, the woman who has been the writer’s partner for 37 years. Nora, married with James Joyce in 1931, has been together with him until the author died, in 1941.
James’ literary career was far from being a smooth road for him. He struggled with the poverty, and most of his life he benefited by the financial help of his friends and sponsors, people who believed in his work. The author also had to put up a fight with his own temper and his nervous breakdowns. He developed various obsessions (for “the syphilitic contagion in Europe”) and fears (of being deserted), which he expressed in his writings. In fact, his main obsession and fear in the same time was his writings (Bowker 128). He talked about writing all the time, he has been writing most of his life, he defended his writings whenever critics had anything to say (Bowker). This indicates an obsessive character, but also an insecure person. It seems that Joyce was hiding behind his visible fears and obsessions to obscure his main problem – the insecurity about his writing being appreciated.
Regardless of his insecurity, obsessions and fears, James Joyce has produced waves of commentaries for his literary and his unique, original writing style, which intrigued and fascinated many in the same time. The writer is a prominent figure of the 20th century and he is consider to be the most influential novelist, a pioneer of the literary modernist avant – garde, followed by many generations (Bowker 327).
Joyce has dedicated his life to literature and everything that happened within his life inspired his artistic creation, directly or indirectly. His fictional characters are extension of the people he knew, members of his family, friends, even enemies, people who influenced him. The author lived in his novels, through his novels, being the main character of his own creation.
Bowker, Gordon. James Joyce: A New Biography. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 2011. Print