Dubliners by James Joyce: A Mother

Mrs. Kearney strikes a deal in this next short story in James Joyce’s Dubliners. She agrees to a contract with Mr. Holohan, agreeing for her daughter to play as an accompanist in a concert for a sum of money. This is exciting news for Miss Katherine Kearney, the talented daughter of Mrs. Kearney. However, events to work according to plan. The shows are not as popular as expected and one of the four shows gets cancelled. Mrs. Kearney refuses her daughter to play in the last show until her daughter gets paid. The story ends with the Kearney’s departure from the concert hall.

There is one thing that stood out to me in this short story, especially if you take into account the politics of this century: a preoccupation with rights.

They thought they had only a girl to deal with and that, therefore, they could ride roughshod over her. But she would show them their mistake. They wouldn’t have dared to have treated her like that if she had been a man. But she would see that her daughter got her rights: she wouldn’t be fooled. If they didn’t pay her to the last farthing she would make Dublin ring. Of course she was sorry for the sake of the artistes. But what else could she do? She appealed to the second tenor who said he thought she had not been well treated. Then she appealed to Miss Healy. Miss Healy wanted to join the other group but she did not like to do so because she was a great friend of Kathleen’s and the Kearneys had often invited her to their house. (p. 146)

This just reminds me of modern day politics. On one side of the room someone yells at me, “Don’t tread on me. Don’t try and take my guns.” On the other side I hear, “It’s my body, I can do what I want.” I just have one question. What is so essential about these rights? Do we have these rights? Do I have those rights? Do I deserve these rights? I’m not saying yes or no, I just want to pose the question because that is what immediately what comes to mind when reading this story.


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