Academic journal article Style

The Narrated and Its Negatives: The Nonnarrated and the Disnarrated in Joyce's Dubliners

Academic journal article Style

The Narrated and Its Negatives: The Nonnarrated and the Disnarrated in Joyce's Dubliners

Article excerpt

Joyce's expression, more often than not, is swollen to the limit of the reader's endurance positively by metaphor, puns, portmanteau words, neologisms, and so forth and negatively by cliches, hackneyed language, and repetition. But, as we all know, this swelling in the expression is not necessarily a padding resulting in a lack of significant meaning. Indeed, this apparent empty prolixity is a subtle way of conveying implicit information of plot, character, and theme.

However, I wish to deal here with the contrary move in Dubliners: strategies of implication like not naming or delaying the names of characters or objects, eliding words in dialogue, referring to but not reporting words characters must have said, not identifying antecedents for pronouns, leaving referents vague in characters' thoughts and speech, suppressing the thoughts of characters whose thoughts are otherwise revealed (Gerard Genette's "paralipsis" in Figures III 212), and entirely omitting the narration of acts that must have happened (Genette's "ellipsis" in Figures III 128). Most of these techniques would qualify as Gerald Prince's "nonnarrated": "something is not told (at least for a while)" (2). On the other hand, what the characters do not say or do not do would seem to be a variety of Prince's "disnarrated".--"the events that do not happen" (2)--and one may notice in Dubliners many examples of words that are not expressed but could/should have been, acts that could/should have been performed but are not, states that could/should have existed but do not, and objects that could/should have been produced but are not. The nonnarrated and the disnarrated, their varieties and their functions are, then, my subjects as well as, on occasion, the "nonnarratable," that which according to Prince, "cannot be narrated or is not worth narrating" (1).

One of the most frequently occurring varieties of the nonnarrated in Dubliners is what Stephanie Bronson calls the "unnamed": characters and qualities that are not given individual names (1). Of these, people in groups or undeveloped individuals filling minor roles like the "whining match-sellers" of "Counterparts" (Bronson 1) and Old Jack's son in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" are obvious candidates for what Seymour Chatman calls "walk-ons" or "extras," rather elements of the setting than characters (Story and Discourse 139). In the classical realistic novel, convention discourages the individual naming of such types: that is, they are nonnarratable. Similarly, sometimes objects are not named as in Old Jack's rather ambiguous reply to a question apparently about Mr. Tierney's payment to the canvassers: "it isn't but he has it, anyway" (121). The first "it" may mean "business," the second "money," but one cannot be sure. Or objects may be referred to by what almost amounts to code language as in Mr. Henchy's allusion to Tierney's secret whiskey cache as his "tricky little black bottle" (123). Even some relatively important characters are not given proper names: Mangan's sister in "Araby," the boys (and later narrators) of the first three stories, and the "queer old josser" of "An Encounter" (Bronson 2, 6, 8). In this latter story, the protagonist even falsifies his name to Smith to avoid the attachment of shame to his name. Still other characters' names are delayed: Parnell in "Ivy Day," Father Flynn, Nannie, and Eliza in "The Sisters" (Bronson 2, 5), Corley and Lenehan in "Two Gallants," and Kernan in "Grace." If we agree with Philippe Hamon that names in many ways have the potential to characterize, individualize a fictional person ("Pour un statut" 147-50), the lack of a name or its delay may well generalize a person as in the cases of the two "gallants." The term is understood ironically, of course, as it becomes evident by the two men's actions, words, and appearances: they represent a bully and a leech, types of the very lack of gallantry. In the case of Kernan in "Grace," the type is even more evidently that of a drunk. …

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