Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  254 / 126 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 254 / 126 Next Page
Page Background






attempt to recruit him to the pressgang and remains critical of

the flatulent Dubliners in the newspaper office, but on the

other hand it is he who proposes a round of drinks, and in so

doing aligns himself with the alcoholic disappointments. His

Parable of the Plums is similarly intricate. In a positive sense, it

functions as a seditiously destabilizing force to counteract

empty rhetoric, as exemplified by MacHugh’s recitation of

Taylor’s speech: instead of embracing the remote past and

cultural purism, the Parable centers on the here and now,

reconstructs a realistic picture of the paralytic Irish status quo

out of incorporated discourses, and thus achieves the

production of truth as expected of an intellectual.



his awareness of the pervasively Irish paralysis and his effort to

reject the lure of empty rhetoric, Stephen is nevertheless as

trapped as the other Dubliners in bitterness, failure, and

unfulfillment, and the Parable, uncomprehended, inclines

toward empty talk. Seeing Stephen’s statement in “Circe,” “I

must kill the priest and the king” (Joyce, 1986: 481), as “a

young man’s assertion,” Andrew Gibson comments: “The

older Joyce got, the more aware he became of the ironical

limits to such a project” (2006: 40). The “ironical limits”

emerge because Stephen is ensnared in the idealism that


The Parable depicts two elderly and abject Dublin women who save up

money to see the views of the city from the top of Nelson’s pillar, where

they spot the roofs of different churches, peer up at the statue of Admiral

Lord Nelson, consume brawn, bread, and plums, and spit the plumstones

out between the railings. Squandering their hard-earned money in

beholding the churches and paying homage to the imperial ruler—the

Italian and English masters in Stephen’s terminology—these Dublin women

enact the willing servants of two masters dominating Ireland, and thus

epitomize the paralysis prevalent among the Irish. So paralytic are they that

the plumstones, which could germinate, flourish, and fruit if properly

planted, are spit out indifferently in the barren cityscape, wasted and

bearing no fruit. This realistic delineation of the paralytic Irish status quo

functions therefore as the counter-discourse to those nostalgic discourses in

“Aeolus,” particularly that on Moses and the Promised Land.