"The Sisters" and the Case of the Broken Chalice By Faith Steinberg As Fritz Senn states, "even in his

earliest published prose Joyce rote in a !ost co!ple", heavily allusive style, different fro! its later convoluted intricacies in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake in degree only#" $%& 'any critics have e"a!ined and scrutinized the religious sy!bolis! and the psychose"ual aspects of "The Sisters," and co!!entaries on this story far out eigh in volu!e the story itself# $(& This paper ill e"plore "The Sisters" in light of a )uestion asked by Adeline *lasheen+ ",hat about Father Flynn of -The Sisters-, ho as up to so!ething funny ith a chalice and a little boy." $/& This )uestion has perhaps not been fully ans ered# Father Flynn. Fro! the descriptions of his idiosyncratic behavior by the boy, by Cotter, by his sister 0liza and by the boy-s aunt, e )uickly learn that Father Flynn has !any proble!s# The boy recollects Father Flynn-s "tongue 1lying2 upon his lo er lip"$3 %4& $4& hich is suggestive of se"ual perversion# $5& Cotter-s snide and elliptical re!arks regarding the priest tell of so!ething a ry se"ually $3 67%8&#$9& 0liza talks of her brother-s life as "crossed" $3 %:&, and the boy-s aunt adds that ";e as a disappointed !an" $3 %:&# Father Flynn had been accepted for study at the <rish school in =o!e and as apparently idely read and kno ledgeable and possibly had a pro!ising future# But < contend that Father Flynn as a repressed pederast, possibly an active !asturbator, $:& very likely fro! early in his career# This resulted in a guilt7ridden secret internal life filled ith the fear of discovery, hich in turn hindered his perfor!ance as a parish priest# This inner life !ay have !anifested itself in a !ultitude of !anneris!s, possibly effe!inate behaviors, hich did not go unnoticed $Joyce points to one, the tongue on the lo er lip&# The boy in "The Sisters" recalls+ "So!eti!es he had a!used hi!self by putting difficult )uestions to !e, asking !e hat one should do in certain circu!stances or hether such and such sins ere !ortal or venial or only i!perfections" $3 %(&# 0ileen >ennedy points out that, "0ducation in the !yriad possibilities of sin is not 1part of a schoolboy-s instruction2#" Such details are reserved for older se!inarians# >ennedy further suggests that this is a reflection of Father Flynn-s !ental health# $?& Florence @# ,alzl concurs, "1;2e cannot refrain fro! taking a rather sadistic pleasure in confusing the boy ith !oral scruples reflective of his o n psychological state#" $6& The priest is obsessed ith his o n !ortal sin# ,hy else ould he be )uestioning an eight or nine year old on such !atters. $%8&# <n A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man , $%%& Joyce rites, "Fro! the evil seed of lust all other deadly sins had sprung forth" $A%89&# The priest-s pederastic predelictions, hich overpo er hi!, conflict ith his strong priestly obligations and beliefs# Bne can i!agine the fa!ous ser!on fro! Chapter <<< of Portrait torturing the priest and the !eanderings reverberating, rattling and s irling in his head, !aking hi! ill, as they did for Steven 3edalus# $%(& The gravity of this !ortal sin $lust& according to the Church tenets is e"pressed by Steven in his tor!ent+ ";ad it been any terrible cri!e but that one sinC ;ad it been !urderC" $A %4(&# Further, the confessions of young boys regarding their se"ual fantasies andDor e"ploits ould very likely e"acerbate the proble!s of this se"ually repressed !an, and visions of fire and bri!stone in eternal ;ell ould rage as his se"ual urges increased# The inner tur!oil rendered the priest sadistic, inept, a k ard and perhaps inco!petent as he retreated into hi!self, finally leading to paralysis# That he did not overstep the bounds of priestly propriety is un ittingly stated by 0liza+ ";e as too scrupulous al ays###The duties of the priesthood as too !uch for hi!"

"There as no hope for hi! this ti!e###" evoke 3ante-s caution. in so!e land here the custo!s ere strange 77 in Aersia.alzl observes the boy has had an epiphanyE he "has e"perienced an intuitive perception. Joyce has a clearly developed portrayal of a sadistic pederast. the orld of the past and a orld beyond 3ublin#$%5& But the tongue lying on the lo er lip !akes the young boy unco!fortable although he doesn-t understand hy# . su!!oned up by Joyce to stand trial as speci!ens of <rish paralysis" $3 (5?&# "The Sisters" !ay be the boy-s $and Joyce-s& bringing up the priest for trial for the disco!fort and frightening sensations he is e"periencing# But his feelings to ard the priest are a!bivalent# The boy is enthralled ith the education he is receiving fro! the priestE an e"tensive vocabulary and @atin. The boy-s ords." in Dubliners.e as indeed a "disappointed !an#" <n "An 0ncounter." the story directly follo ing "The Sisters. that the root cause of Father Flynn-s physical breakdo n is si!oniacal ." Scholes G @itz rite+ "1T2he epicleti !ay be considered the accused. "Abandon hope ye ho enter###" $ Inferno <<<# 6&# $%4& Joyce is leading the boy $and the reader& into a descent to an unkno n region. but not a conscious understanding of the se"ual i!plications of his interchange ith Father Flynn# The ord paralysis goes round in his head.$3 %:&$%/&# Father Flynn could not function fully under the stress of his enor!ous secret and as never pro!oted ithin the priesthood# . fro! the very opening line. < thought### But < could not re!e!ber the end of the drea!" $3 %/7%4&# The "s!ile" and the "!oist ith spittle" lips are provoking troubling )uestions# The boy is struggling to co!e to ter!s ith his o n developing se"uality# The velvet curtains $sensual& and the s inging la!p $erotic& in this e"otic at!osphere are se"ually charged i!ages $%9&# As .e has already distanced hi!self fro! the priest by referring to the corpse as "it#" <n his ru!inations the boy senses so!ething disagreeable# It !ur!uredE and I understood that it desired to confess something # It began to confess so!ething to !e in a !ur!uring voice and < ondered hy it smiled continually and hy the lips wereso moist with spittle # But then < re!e!bered < re!e!bered that it had died of paralysis and < felt that < too as s!iling feebly as if to absolve the simoniac of his sin" $3 %%& 1e!phasis added2# @ater the boy tries to recollect the last part of the drea! and re!e!bers "that < had noticed long velvet curtains and a s inging la!p of anti)ue fashion# < felt that < had been very far a ay. "But no it sounded to !e like the na!e of so!e !aleficent and sinful being" $3 6& 1e!phasis added2# The ord "paralysis" in the narro physical sense has no !oral value attached to it# The boy $Joyce& is using "paralysis" in ter!s of his co!ple" relationship ith the priest. na!ely the unconscious# The boy-s se"ual a areness is slo ly being a akened by his pro"i!ity to the priest hose !anneris!s are suggestive of a se"ually predatory nature# <n the chapter "0piphanies and 0picleti.e has an instinctual. learning of the cataco!bs of =o!e and Hapoleon Bonaparte. the priest of "The Sisters" ithout the restraints of the Church# Both are ell7educated and ell7spoken and the descriptions of the priest and the pederast are si!ilarE the "ancient priestly gar!ents" ere a faded green $3 %(& and in "An 0ncounter" the pederast as "shabbily dressed in a suit of greenish7black" $3 (4& 1e!phasis added2E both have "discoloured" $3 %/& and "yello " teeth $3 (5& conFuring up i!ages of !old and decay# The Boy. an underlying un holeso!eness hich spreads like a disease and hich represents the pall that the Church has cast over <reland# This !ight clarify the boy-s enig!atic reaction to the priest-s death+ "< found it strange that neither < nor the day see!ed in a !ourning !ood and < felt even annoyed at discovering in !yself a sensation of freedo! as if < had been freed fro! so!ething by his death" $3 %(&# .

to !y thinking.hat as this e"perienced priest so nervous about.e enFoys !outhing ords. " It was the chalice he broke###That as the beginning of it# Bf course. *od be !erciful to hi!C" $3 %:& 1e!phasis added2# . as to hy the priest ent "off#" The Chalice. slo ly says. $(/& < ould argue that the use of the ord si!oniac is a !alapropis!# . are convoluted and a stretch# Si!ony is the selling or e"change of favors for !oney or "!oney-s orth" $%?& and there is no evidence that the priest sold either !onetary or spiritual favors $%6&# Joyce-s use of the ord si!ony in the story is t ofold# Firstly to establish si!ony as a the!e for the Dubliners. that it contained nothing. < !ean# But still### hey say it was the boy"s fault # But poor Ja!es as so nervous.hat the boy !eans to say is "se" !aniacE" the t o ords have the sa!e nu!ber of syllables and sound al!ost the sa!e particularly ith a brogue in hich the "e" and "i" of se" and si!ony sound virtually the sa!e# <t is an e"pression the boy !ay have heard on the streets# Bne of the ironies of this story is that the boy !ay be the only person ho has a clue. there is a cross $3 (46& rather than a rosaryE and in the final version the rosary and the cross are replaced by a chalice $3 %4&# Iery near the end of the narrative. after a long silence. "The Sisters" as first published in the he Irish !omestead$(4& in %684 and before final publication ent through !any revisions# <t is orthy of note that in the !omestead version the priest in his coffin has a rosary on his chestE in an early te"t printed in the Scholes and @itz edition.guilt" $%:&# But efforts to apply the sin of si!ony to the priest. the vessel of Christ-s blood. $(8& but his usage is.illia! Jork Tindall notes that "Father Ja!es Flynn###is hat Joyce !ight have been as parish priest" $/%& reflected in the na!e Ja!es as ell as Flynn 77 the fa!ily na!e of one of Joyce-s !aternal ancestors $/(&# The boy !ay readily be associated . 'arilyn French !akes a relevant observation regarding the boy-s use of si!oniac+ "1<2t is heightened by the !ystery and ellipses to so!ething dark and fascinating and corrupt. they say it as all right. obbly# Further. at ti!es. !entions that "Joyce### as### thoroughly conversant ith traditional sy!bols in art and religion" $(?&# 'y contention is that the broken chalice is akin to the broken pitcher in paintings 77 a sy!bol of the lost virginity of a young !aiden $(6&# The priest has broken his vo s by even thinking of young boys in se"ual ter!s# <n essence. the chalice had been broken in long years past and finally in fact# The sy!bolis! of the broken chalice $i#e#. and secondly to sho the boy-s love of ords# . even subli!inally. has been violated# All is not ell ithin the hallo ed sacra!ents of the Church# . 0liza. so!ething containing overtones of perverse po er and se"" $(%&# S!iling and "spittle on the lips" is !ore akin to se"uality than si!ony# Just as 0liza is prone to !alapropis!s.alzl. broken pitcher& reinforces the argu!ent of the se"ual i!plications in the priest-s case# The boy later refers to this latter obFect as the "idle chalice" $3 %?& the inference of the ord "idle" being that this obFectDsy!bol of the priesthood is no "e!pty of !eaning" $/8&# The priest-s chalice. The chalice as not heavy ith the ine for the 0ucharist# The presence of a boy !ight have triggered the priest-s carnal urges# So!e sort of clu!sy e"change arose out of the priest-s preoccupationE perhaps brushing up a little too closely to the boy $accidentally on purpose& caused an abrupt reaction fro! the boy and the dropping of the chalice fro! the over rought priest-s hands# <t can only be conFecture# The chalice $(9& is the !ost i!portant vessel in the Catholic Church used in the 0ucharist and according to church dog!a holds the blood of Christ# <t !ust be consecrated by a bishop and is closely associated ith the parish priest# >ennedy highlights the i!portance of the chalice# After ad!inistering the 0ucharist "the priest prays that -no stain of sin re!ain on !e### ho! these pure and holy sacra!ents have refreshed" $(:& .

note %# $/&# Adeline *lasheen "Kueries About 'ulligan as .eretic 'ocker and =hetorician" A Wake %ewslitter. "-.alzl . all are blind to the priest-s ail!ent# Cotter-s interpretation is narro 7 !indedly conte!ptuous. $He Jork+ The Iiking Aress.hat < do suggest is that the priest !ay have had a very active fantasy life starring little boys." ##$." pp# 4%:7%?. %( $Su!!er %6:/& /:574(%.as Too Scrupulous Al ays. and finally the boy. "a pin. edge. <taly# The panel dealt ith several stories fro! Dubliners. %696&# This te"t as used in preparation of this paper and references ithin the te"t ill be !ade by $3&# $5&# Critics interpreting religious sy!bolis! throughout the te"t have noted that this is the position of the tongue for receiving the co!!union afer# Ho doubt. Joyce has set the stage for the stories to follo . giving a harsh and conde!natory picture of his native city# 0"cept for Cotter. for all his help# $%&# Fritz Senn.+ A 3evelop!ent.Joyce-s -The Sisters. is !ore far7reaching# Blindness to the prohibitively restrictive Church as sy!bolized by the priest $ ho hi!self caves in under the constraints& leads to a paralysis hich per!eates 3ublin and <reland and ulti!ately to Joyce-s e"ile# Hotes This essay as inspired by a discussion follo ing a panel at the (88( <nternational Ja!es Joyce Sy!posiu! in Trieste.ith the young Joyce. eds# =obert Scholes and A# . gives a co!prehensive bibliography of the articles $through %6:/& dealing ith "The Sisters. but the priest is teaching the boy in this instance# $9&# 0ileen >ennedy. L<I 5 $Bctober.alton @itz. %6::& :9. %( $Su!!er %6:5&. ( $.school# <t is not too far7fetched to assu!e that the young Joyce encountered behavior such as Father Flynn-s a!ong the priests# <n this opening story of Dubliners.e . possibly leading to !asturbation hich is considered a!ong the !ortal sins# < have never co!e across personal or public ritings of Joyce-s hich refer to pederasty a!ong the clergy# The literature on <reland of the period $late %6th 7early (8th centuries& suggests that the Catholic Church had a fir! grip not only on its parishioners but the clergy as ell# There are e"a!ples of heterose"ual transgressions bet een priests and parishioners but they are far and fe bet een and are the e"ceptions# .-" ##$. including "The Sisters#" 'any thanks to J'. or bolt hich fits into a hole and fastens so!ething in its place" $ *+D&# Hot only does this i!ply that he $Cotter& has hit the nail on the head but ith a little i!agination su!!ons up se"ual i!agery appropriate to the thesis being presented# $:&# < hesitate to refer to Father Flynn as an active pederast# . note (# $4&# Ja!es Joyce "Dubliners& e't( )riticism( and %otes ." ##$. !aliciously gossipy and anti7intellectualE the boy-s like Joyce-s. particularly in his love of ords and certainly in his religious schooling# Bn one of !any levels. key. "Joyce-s -The Sisters. "-@ying Still-+ Another @ook at -The Sisters-.hat . proffers a definition of the na!e Cotter.inter %695& 99# $(&# Florence @# . /9/. "The Sisters" !ay be a story of the young i!pressionable Joyce ho !eets a hapless older Joyce had he undertaken the priesthood# < do not !ean to i!ply that Joyce as a pederastE rather that he !ight have i!agined hi!self $sardonically& beco!ing one had he been a celibate in the at!osphere of a boys.

Joyce rites of the young Stephen+ ". 4 $Fall %699&.is se"ual appetites !ade his priestly duties too !uch for hi!# $%4&# Cited by Jackson G 'c*inley. HJ+ Barnes G Hoble.iterature.alzl.alzl.and 'r# Bloo!-s Cigar+ .does see! to have been a proble! ere alcoholis! and contentiousness# The orst vice that Father Flynn e"hibits is his use of snuff# See Sir .and the Critics" ##$. prefer!ents and the like. and the effort to achieve it destructive" $444&# $%/&# 0liza-s observation has an ironical ring to it# . Ireland in the %ew )entury $Corpus of 0lectronic Te"ts 0dition+ 0688884#88%&E =ev# '# B-=iordan. $%(&# 'arilyn French.ood School. the !agician. %6?/&. %689&. 44?# . and ego as i!possible. %8. /% $Spring %664&. /95# $6&# . a Jesuit school. intended to do" p# (b# $%6&# Bernard Benstock.inter %6:?& points out "For hi! 1Joyce2 transcendence of body. (4 $. %%&# $%9&# 3avid Horris.o!ose"uality in the . (a# $%5&# This ould e"plain his strong reaction to Cotter-s re!arks $3 6.ords hich he did not understand he said over and over to hi!self till he had learnt the! by heart" $A 9(&# $(%&# French.ere the boy an adolescent it see!s unlikely that Cotter ould refer to hi! as "child#" $%%&# Ja!es Joyce." ##$.orace Alunkett. 'B+ B# . for !oney or !oney-s orth. %6?:. desire. "'issing Aieces in Joyce-s Dubliners. /6%# $%?&# )atholic +ncyclopedia $%6%(&. rpt# %66?&# p# (%:# Bf course the Church !ay have concealed pederastic behavior but one can only go by the evidence# $?&# >ennedy. /6?# $%8&# The age can only be a conFecture# Joyce hi!self as at Clongo es .erder. discusses pederasty in ter!s of "The Book of a Thousand Hights" in the =ichard Burton edition " ith its preface detailing the se"ual habits of the Arab and in particular. "The -unhappy !ania. fro! the ages of si" to nine# ." wentieth-)entury . )atholicity and Progress in Ireland $St# @ouis. he )atholic )hurch in %ineteenth )entury Ireland $Toto a. s#v# Si!ony# Jackson G 'c*inley supply further insights# <n response to a catechis! regarding the first Co!!and!ent. one of the responses is si!ony hich is elaborated further+ ". as Si!on. corroborates this vie + "Surely he 1the priest2 is no si!oniac" $//&# $(8&# <n Portrait.orks of Ja!es Joyce.e ho buys or sells spiritual things. the addiction of the Arab !ale to sodo!itic practices ith boys and youths# Joyce o ned a copy of this ork" $/9(&# $%:&# . pp# 997:(E To! <nglis. pp# (:%7(:5E 3es!ond J# >eenan.ise and Fall of the )atholic )hurch in Modern Ireland $3ublin+ Mniv# College of 3ublin. "-The Sisters. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man $He %656&# =eferences in the te"t ill be indicated by $A&# Jork+ Iiking Aress. Moral Monopoly& he .

but i!plicating hi! by association# At Clongo es. it !ight break if it ere dropped# $(:&# >ennedy. depending on the financial circu!stances of the church# <f the base ere defectively Foined to the bo l.com/joyce/joyce_paper_steinberg.html . rpt# %69:&. Joyce. %66(&. had been an altarboy" $6b&# $(9&# )atholic +ncyclopedia $%68?&. not the young narrator.$((&# For e"a!ple. /95# $(?&# . #ames #oyce( he Years of /rowth( 0112-0304 $@ondon+ >yle Cathie. s#v# Chalice# A chalice has a large bo l. @ouvre# $/8&# Senn. aged :. (: $ . Straus G *irou". @td#. ith a base and so!eti!es t o handles# <t is !ade of either gold. 0liza refers to the "Free!an-s *eneral" $3 %9& rather than the Free!an-s Journal and "the! ne 7fangled carriages" ith "rheu!atic heels" rather than pneu!atic heels $3%:& 1e!phasis added2# $(/&# @eonard Albert.alzl. August %/." JJK. "*no!onology+ Joyce-s -The Sisters. San Francisco and Jean7Baptiste *reuze $%:9/&.themodernword. %656. 488# $(6&# T o e"a!ples of the "The Broken Aitcher" are by Adolphe7. Table <<. 3eJoung 'useu! of Art. silver or pe ter.inter %668& believes the boy !eans to say "sodo!y" rather than "si!ony" $/98&# $(4&# he Irish !omestead $3ublin.illia! Bouguereau $c#%?6%&.illia! Jork Tindall. A .eader"s /uide to #ames #oyce $He Jork+ Farrar. The Flynn Fa!ily# @ink http://www. p# 9# Albert concurs ith this notion $/5:&# $/(&# Aeter Costello. 9:# $/%&# . %684& 9:979::# The story Stephen 3aedalus# as signed by $(5&# Jackson G 'c*inley state that the boy refers to "the server at the 'ass.

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