- Jul 2018
Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home.
These sentences capture the story's thematic core: the internal and external dynamics of coming and going, not only spatially (e.g., the passing pedestrians) and geographically (e.g., the priest in Melbourne), but also generationally (see the double repetition of "grown up" in this paragraph) and in the transition from life to death. We could begin to trace the workings of this theme in this story, and throughout Dubliners, by comparing the frequency of language of stasis and return to the frequency of words associated with leaving and escape.
I wished to go in and look at him but I had not the courage to knock. I walked away slowly along the sunny side of the street, reading all the theatrical advertisements in the shopwindows as I went. I found it strange that neither I nor the day seemed in a mourning mood and I felt even annoyed at discovering in myself a sensation of freedom as if I had been freed from something by his death. I wondered at this for, as my uncle had said the night before, he had taught me a great deal. He had studied in the Irish college in Rome and he had taught me to pronounce Latin properly. He had told me stories about the catacombs and about Napoleon Bonaparte, and he had explained to me the meaning of the different ceremonies of the Mass and of the different vestments worn by the priest. Sometimes he had amused himself by putting difficult questions to me, asking me what one should do in certain circumstances or whether such and such sins were mortal or venial or only imperfections.
Packed with mixed feelings of curiosity, fear, deferral, confusion, irritation, freedom, and reminiscing, this passage suggests that the narrator's relationship with the late Father Flynn is far more complicated (and perhaps troubling) than meets the eye. The language of this excerpt is ripe for close reading, but we could also explore it computationally by calculating pronoun frequencies (i.e., how often "he" and "him" appear compared to "I" and "me"), and by performing a sentiment analysis in a Jupyter notebook. It would be interesting to compare one's close readings with the results of a computer-generated sentiment analysis.