Page 4 - February 2021
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           jack foley                              RAMBLINGS

                       OCTOGENARIAN ANTICS

           I’m no therapist but I am a moderately good Freudian, and it seems fairly clear from
           your note that you are dealing with not-fully-resolved Oedipal issues. Every child, male
           or  female, has to choose between primarily male (father) or primarily female (mother)
           sexual  identity.  It  marks  one  of  the  great  early  moments  of  a  person’s  movement
           towards adulthood. The choice may become difficult if the child is male and the mother
           a  dominant  person,  the  father  a  recessive  type.  If  this  latter  situation  is  particularly
           strong, the male child may choose to identify with the mother and become gay. Even in
           a  situation  in  which  the  child  chooses  the  father,  the  mother  may  still  play  a  strong

           role. In your instance your mother, not your father, was telling you what it meant to be
           Read (or re-read) “The Dead.” The characters are clearly based on Joyce and his wife,
           Nora. In creating the character, Gabriel Conroy, Joyce is telling us something about a
           certain kind of Dublin person. But as this Dublin person interacts with his wife, Gretta,
           the  person  is  also  telling  Joyce  something  about  himself:  functioning  as  a  skewed
           mirror  of  the  author.  He  allows  Joyce  the  objective  distance  to  judge  himself.  But,
           beyond this, Gabriel tells Joyce what it means to be a writer. Joyce and the reader learn
           that the movement of the writer’s mind is outward via both compassion and the world's
           stresses  from  mere  egotism  towards  a  larger,  all-encompassing  sense  of  humanity.
           The great moment of the conclusion is “Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes.” These
           tears are not directed towards Gabriel himself though the story has taught him much
           that  is  wrong  with  himself.  They  are  directed  towards  “all  the  living  and  the  dead,”
           towards a compassionate vision of the whole of humanity, with its loving and suffering.
           The writer’s trajectory is not towards “self expression” but is a movement away from
           particular circumstances towards a compassionate and loving vision of the whole of
           humanity, towards the creation of “the uncreated  conscience  [consciousness] of my
           race.” Literature tells that story again and again, and it is the story Joyce tells in every

           one of his works. It is also the Freudian story of the Oedipus complex, the movement
           away from jealousy of the father for the affection of the mother towards the possibility
           of love not only towards women other than the mother but towards “all the living and
           the dead.” The family is, precisely, where we learn to love. Note how subtly Joyce tells
           the story. Gabriel’s desire for his wife is never referred to as anything but “lust,” and
           Gretta never says she “loved” her young suitor, Michael Furey. She will only say, “I
           was great with him at the time.” Yet Gabriel and Joyce (and the reader!) all learn from
           Michael Furey's romantic self sacrifice ("I think he died for me," says Gretta) "that such
           a feeling must be love."

        litterateur                                                                February 2021
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