New Orleans and James Joyce

Contrasting Social Mentality in the Face of Disaster

I first realized the psychological effects of death and mass disaster shortly after September 11th. I noticed New Orleans locals are also keen on what I am describing as; wisdom attained following the pain and sufferings of a disaster. In conversation, with locals in New Orleans and New York, I made a note of references to their own lives and experiences regarding before and after.

New Orleans faced widespread destruction and long-term dislocation from its people and city. The crisis changed thousands of people’s lives and so, to those who experienced it first hand; their life predicaments suggest a reference to either before or after the storm.

As I researched Ireland’s history, I read about the five-year potato famine in the 1840’s. One Million people died of starvation and disease while another million fled the country. The tone of Dubliners familiarizes the reader with a city that has known affliction.

The controversy spread during the famine as the English continued exporting mass amounts of Irish crops despite the starving country. Comparisons between the Famine and the Holocaust even arose in my research; alluding to British exports role in the degradation of Ireland’s population, similar to that of Nazi Genocide.

(Joyce, “Clay”126)

“I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls
With vassals and serfs at my side
and of all who assembled within those walls
That I was the hope and the pride.
I had riches too great to count, could boast
Of a high ancestral name
But also I dreamt, which pleased me most, That you loved me still the same.”

Reading these accusations and descriptions of Irish suffering led me to presuppose a same mentality of the Irish as I have seen in New Orleans and New York.

To my surprise, Joyce’s characters in Dubliners did not assert recognition of their misfortune the same way. Joyce leaves more subtle implications of the effect rather than aspects directly referring to the time period of loss. Instead, Joyce intertwines the rippling of depression within character predicaments and their mentality. Eveline has components within its character development alluding to harsh times directly caused by the potato famine. Eveline’s mother died from disease, and her lover is attempting to flee the country while her other brother also has passed. Joyce includes Eveline’s home ties and experiences to portray her characters reason for paralysis before getting on the train. “Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could” (Joyce, 41).

Eveline never refers directly to the famine; perhaps she is still not removed enough from the incident just yet. Evidence can be found throughout stories in Dubliners implying the effects of the disaster. From immorality in Dublin’s underground ‘slavey’ scene described in Two Gallants to Jimmy losing the card game in After The Race. The short peek the reader gets into the characters lives is alluding to a city struggling to find its footing following the famine.

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