Power play: games in Joyces `Dubliners
The essay under-review is “Power play: games in Joyce’s “Dubliners” by Mamta Chaudhry-Fryer and I was published in “Studies in Short Fiction” in volume 32 number 3 in summer 1995. In this scholarly essay Ms Chaudhry has taken into account the subtle utilization of children’s games by Joyce in Dubliners to manifest to offer readers some additional ways to comprehend different aspects of truth, knowledge, and power. She has employed theories of Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault to suggest that game playing epitomize the process of working outside the domain of societal compulsions and restrictions. It further denotes that this working beyond restrictions also lead transfer of power from the established power holders to the new ones.
Ms Chaudhry starts with citing from Joyce’s most anthologized short story “The Araby” where Araby remarks that child’s play is the most serious work of life. She says that this remark has provoded the basis for her thesis to analyze the stories of Dubliners in the light of “Michel Foucaults theories about power and knowledge, as well as Mikhail Bakhtins analysis of comedy”.
Foucault and Bakhtin are of the view that imposed compulsions and restriction must be contravened in order to shift power from the powerful to the powerless. Ms Chaudhry further looks toward Foucault to locate the power centers i.e. where power resides. She further emphasize the Bakhtin’s view-point that comedy is a form that enables one to subvert power as it provides means to look at things from new and unrestricted perspective and games plays an important role in it. She asserts through citing different scholarly studies that through games, children set up new environment that is outside the domain of official and societal restrictions. “They also have their own society and their own code of jurisdiction”. She further says that these games defy adults’ life and world as it deflates the pretentious acts of power through play. So it is equivalent to the serious work of life as both by undermining authority involve power play. Here Ms Chaudhry provides various examples of games from different stories. She describes various categories of games that children play without direct supervision of adults. Adults too play games. This all involves processes of “reversion, inversion, and subversion” that are symbolically represented through games. Guessing game symbolically represent the process of seeking truth through knowledge. “The Sisters: is such a story where a boy plays the guessing game to seek knowledge about various mysteries and he “is told that knowing too much is bad for children”. But he subvert notion i.e. a form of imposed restrictions. He goes ahead to seek the truth on his own without caring the official compulsions. . All this is symbolized by games in the story. In “An Encounter”, children also play games with adults but do not follow their rules and restrictions. This is symbolized by their unruly spirits and reading the “chronicles of disorder”. They start another game that is a defiance of adult authority but this ultimately leads them to “knowledge about the adult world”.
Ms Chaudhry also cites various other examples in details from Dubliner to support her view-point. For example in `A Painful Case” tries to locate and accumulate undisclosed and unsaid information by solving puzzles and newspaper cuttings i.e. a form of adult games. So Ms Chadhry asserts that “Both children and adults use games as a way to knowledge and to power. If power is not fixed but shifting, then the adults `simultaneously undergo and exercise` it (Foucault 98). They, too, rebel against authority, whether religious, political, social, or economic.”
Additionally, Mamta also illustrates that certain other adults’ activities are termed as children’s games. Marriage is considered to be termed as “mugs game” where in `The Boarding House, a mother considers the flirtation of her daughters with boarders as childish games. Ms Chaudhry further explores the thematic expressions for aspects of games. She describes that “games as a way of subverting authority are played not only in the private sphere, but also in the public.” She illustrates that in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” the whole actiovity of politics is a game. She further illustrates stories that deal with cultural and religious life in Dublin by employing the symbol of game-playing.
This essay also takes into account the relationship between the comedic spirit and child play and Ms Chaudhry asserts that both serves the same purpose i.e. independence from established compulsions and imposed restrictions. She quotes Foucault that laughter allows looking at things and situations from a different perspective; she chose the example of “The Dead” to illustrate this view-point. She says that “[t]he festive laughter of the ball allows Gretta and Gabriel to suspend the habits of their everyday life together. For once, they can admit into their conjugal relationship what has been hitherto excluded — the story of Michael Furey. And, as Foucault suggests, a different way of looking at things allows accepted truths to be challenged. Gabriel Conroys knowledge is powerfully expressed at the end of the story, when he is able to see himself as one of `all the living and the dead` (236). She concludes by saying that in Dubliners, power is approached through knowledge that is gained thorough the means of language and laughter”.
Overall it is a valuable contribution toward Dubliners study as it provides a totally new insight into the Joyce use of symbolism and motifs in his short stories. Ms. Chaudhry’s investigations and interpretations depend on variety of primary and secondary sources. Supporting her thesis from philosophical resources like Foucault’s “Power/Knowledge” and Bakhtin’s “Rabelais and His World” gives philosophical orientation to the topic. It book is more accurate and wide-ranging as it has tried to provide a comprehensive interpretation of an important facets of the stories. It compels us to ponder over it in a new way. The relation between games and subversion of authority is well established and Ms Chadhry has provided variety iof example from almost all the Dubliner’s story to establish the connection. Further she has taken into consideration various manifestations of this correlation i.e. children’s games, adult’s games and various adult activities as games. Her detailed illustrations from text is too helpful in understanding these relationships.
But a close analysis of its thesis suggests that he has not considered an important intellectual element that she proposes initially. She is unable to correlate comedic elements in the stories to the subversion of established officialdom and imposed restrictions in a proper way. Her prepositions in this regard at the end of the essay are weak as no supporting textual or extra-textual evidence is provided. Another flaw with the essay is related to its structure as it does follow a proper pattern and too much information about too many a facets is fused at a time. But author does not distract from her main thesis.
No related essays.