Literature is constantly showing its readers aspects of people and societies that would not
normally be shown to the public. The various aspects of society that writers choose to
focus on are done for a reason. Whether or not it is a positive or negative aspect of
society doesn't hold any significance. The only thing that matters in society is why writers
choose to focus on the subjects that they do. Most writers are trying to push their readers
further by challenging them with an aspect that the reader may overlook in everyday
situations. In his Dubliners, James Joyce uses the function of religion in society to show
how corruption has overtaken the Irish. Joyce portrays the immoral and corrupt role of
the priests in society to show the hypocrisy behind the Irish Catholic Church, and all that
it supposedly stands for.
Joyce's symbolism of the physical features and sexual connotations of the priests
in The Sisters, Ivy Day in the Committee Room, and in Grace, provides readers
with an example of how deceiving these honorable religious figures truly are. In The
Sisters, Joyce describes the physical features of Father Flynn to show how other
characters felt uncomfortable in his presence. It seems that Father Flynn's company are
almost repelled to him: When he smiled he used to uncover his big discoloured teeth and
let his tongue lie upon his lower lip a habit which had made me feel uneasy in the
beginning of our acquaintance before I knew him well (13). This quote shows the
awkwardness of Father Flynn's physical appearance. The discoloured teeth shows that
the priest wasn't hygienic, when in reality priests are supposed to be purified and
cleansed. The teeth show that corruption exists in Father Flynn, because he hasn't
followed the regulations of priesthood.
Another unexpected characteristic of an Irish
priest is seen in Father Keon. He is described as being almost seductive with other men
and women of the Church, 'No, no no!' said Father Keon, speaking in a discreet
indulgent velvety voice. 'Don't let me disturb you now! I'm just looking for Mr.
Fanning' (126). Priests are supposed to abstain from the physical pleasures of life.
However, the description Joyce makes of Father Keon suggests that his mind is full of
corrupt notions. He speaks in an indulgent velvety voice, which allows the reader to
imagine the priest as almost seductive and deceitful.
Another sexual connotation made by a priest is seen in Grace with Father
Purdon. The role of a p...