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James Joyce’s Dubliners: Two Gallants

In “Two Gallants,” the sixth short story in the Dubliners collection, James Joyce is especially careful and crafty in his opening paragraph. Even the most cursory of readings exposes repetition, alliteration, and a clear structure within just these nine lines. The question remains, though, as to what the beginning of “Two Gallants” contributes to the meaning and impact of Joyce’s work, both for the isolated story itself and for Dubliners as a whole. The construction, style, and word choice of this opening, in the context of the story and the collection, all point to one of Joyce’s most prevalent implicit judgments: that the people of Ireland refuse to make any effort toward positive change for themselves.

(1)The grey warm evening of August had descended

(2)upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of

(3)summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered

(4)for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured

(5)crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the

(6)summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below

(7)which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up

(8)into the warm grey evening air an unchanging un-

(9)ceasing murmur. (p. 59)

The opening paragraph of this story is a microcosm, in terms of structure, of the larger construction of “Two Gallants:” both are clearly circular in style, beginning and ending with similar references and stylistic devices. The most explicit hint of the story’s structure is the use of the word “circulated” (line 3), but Joyce offers concrete evidence in the opening as well. He begins with a reference to “the grey warm evening” (line 1) and includes in the final sentence the phrase “the warm grey evening” (line 8). …

… middle of paper …

…on page 64, say,

Yet still in her darkness doth Erin lie sleeping,

Still doth the pure light its dawning delay.

Joyce attempts in “Two Gallants” and the other stories in Dubliners to begin the “dawning” process — a move away from static “paralysis” toward a sense of collective agency for positive change — but is limited to the finite role of lighting metaphorical lamps. However bright and pointed his light is, he still must depend on the people of Ireland, in whom he has little or no faith, to fight for the change he says they so desperately need.

Works Cited

1 from Gifford, Don. Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, page 59.

All other citations from Joyce, James. The Portable James Joyce, ed. Harry Levin. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

Themes in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood – Themes

There are many prominent themes in the novel In Cold Blood, and they cover a wide spectrum of topics. They include the effects (if any) caused by environment in childhood, how a person of any of locale can be a victim of hostility, and the presence of contrasting personalities.

Truman Capote gives the reader a detailed account of Perry Smith’s and Dick Hickock’s childhoods. Smith’s childhood was very problematic and scarred by years of abuse. He witnessed beatings of his mother by his father; as a result of the domestic violence, his parents divorced. Due to these problems he rans away from home, and he was “in and out of detention homes many times” (277). He is severely beaten and humiliated by a cottage mistress because of a mixuration malfunction. These violent episodes compelled his bitterness toward other humans. When Smith entered adulthood, he commited acts of thievery and acts of battery. While in the merchant marines, he once threw a Japanese policeman off a bridge and into the water. All these events had an impact on Smith, and his adulthood provided him with the opportunity to avenge the experiences that enraged him.

Hickock’s childhood was marked by no horror stories. His years of childhood showed no signs of abuse or neglect, but his parents were a little overprotective. He showed no real contempt for his parents or his childhood. Dick’s inception into adulthood reveals his abnormal “tendencies,” (Reed 115) and in the novel proof is given by Hickock: “I think the main reason I went there [the Clutter home] was not to rob them but to rape the girl” (278).

The two killers’ childhoods were obviously dissimilar, and their differences bring to question the formation of a killer’s mind. Is it childhood that affects the criminal mind’s mentality? Smith’s lack of companionship during his childhood led him to search for companionship in Hickock. Hickock took advantage of Smith’s need by promoting Smith’s fantasies. Hickock truly felt that Smith’s fantasies were ludicrous, but he supported his fantasies because he needed Smith’s aid to commit the murders.

A second theme of In Cold Blood is the randomness of crime. The Clutter family lived in rural Kansas hundreds of miles from a major city, and people of this small community felt a sense of security. The Clutter family murder made national headlines because this crime fit no stereotype.

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