The necropolis of love: James Joyce’s Dubliners
Joyce’s Dubliners (1916) embodies a harsh critique of the society in the Irish capital that is paralysed by Catholicism, by the English imperialism, by enormous poverty and social wretchedness. Love is under these circumstances degenerated and perverted, partly due to the Christian criminalization of sensual love, partly due to the egoistical and ruthless battle for survival of the individual in the capitalistic bourgeoisie. The repression of love, which is brought about through the miserable social conditions and the Christian persecution of sexuality, results in a degradation of love life, according to Joyce, that is clearly illustrated by the extensive prostitution in the streets, which the author perceives to be a direct consequence of the religious condemnation of erotic love. It is everyone for himself in this modern metropolis, so it is not only women who exercise mercantilist calculations in love life, since men utilise love in the exploitation of others as well (cf. ‘Two Gallants’). Joyce reveals furthermore how one of society’s most honoured institutions of love, matrimony, is nothing but state institutionalised prostitution that ties the married couple to life in mutual bitterness and unhappiness. The impossibility of love and the grim hopelessness of the socio-ideological conditions are in this manner mirroring each other in Dubliners.