James Duffy more accurately than it describes Mrs. Emily Sinico. The circumstances of his life and character, and his relationship with Mrs. Sinico, all paint a picture of a man of disagreeable pretension, who lacks the capacity to…
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He obviously suffers from intellectual pretensions and a false sense of superiority, considering himself to be “a unique figure” (Joyce, 5) among ordinary people. His delusions of adventurism and revolutionary socialism are belied by the dreary routine of his life. Except for the saving grace of his feeling for music, nothing relieves the emptiness of his days – he even “reads his evening paper for dessert”! (Joyce 6). The uncarpeted rooms and blank walls of his house, the gloomy landscape from his window, and the abandoned distillery all highlight the emptiness of his life.
One of the most ‘painful’ characteristics of Mr. Duffy’s personality is obviously his attempt to insulate himself from emotion by avoiding any personal contact with people. He lives “as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen,” (Joyce, 3). Joyce’s statement that “He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed” (p.4), is indisputable proof of the barrenness of Mr. Duffy’s emotional life. He lets nothing, not even the death of his father, disrupt the tedious tenor of his routine. One cannot but suspect that his criticism of “an obtuse middle class, (Joyce, 5) is only an excuse to justify his inaction on all fronts and limit his contact with people.
Mr. Duffy’s relationship with Emily Sinico gives him the opportunity to break out of his emotional cocoon. He is willing to share his pseudo-intellectual life with her, and basks in her admiration of his mental pretensions. However, it is beyond his nature to open himself up to her offer of love. He fears to allow the emotionalizing of his mental life proceed to the logical conclusion of the sharing of physical love. He refuses to move from the sterile pseudo-intellectual plane to the passionate level of emotion. His selfishness permits him to use Emily only in the role he has assigned to her- that of “his
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