"Clay": A Microcosm for Ireland
James Joyce's "Clay" is a remarkable explication of Irish folklore and the societal issues that plague turn-of-the-century Dublin. Following Maria on the night of Halloween, the story combines imagery and symbolism throughout. In S. A. Cowan's article "Celtic Folklore in 'Clay': Maria and the Irish Washerwoman," the central character is portrayed not as witch, as many critics have assumed, but rather a combination of three Celtic spirits: the banshee, the bean-nighe, and the glaistig (214). Though Cowan agrees with critics that Maria possesses witch-like qualities, he asserts that the main character in "Clay" more closely resembles these three spirits. Cowan points out that Maria is a "'very, very small person indeed' that 'wears tiny dress boots'" and that Joyce's description of her mirrors the Scottish definition of a banshee as "'having the appearance of a small child'; at others as 'a small or very little woman...'" (214). Cowan cites that Irish tradition regards the bean-nighe as a "washerwoman...Her appearance is regarded as a warning of death..." and that this comparison to Maria in "Clay" is...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 763 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 5063 literature essays, 1531 sample college application essays, 195 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in