Dubliners

Duffy as the Übermensch

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, "'free spirits'...do not exist, did not exist" but "could one day exist" (18). Mr. James Duffy, the protagonist of James Joyce's "A Painful Case" in Dubliners, has characteristics similar to that of Nietzsche's theoretical overman. Nevertheless, although Duffy appears to live like an overman, his life ironically parallels an ascetic religion from which he cannot escape. His orientation towards Dublin, society, and his relationship with Mrs. Sinico have Nietzschian undertones, although they remain fundamentally religious, thereby ensuring the impossibility of Duffy ever reaching Ãbermensch status.

In both the preface to Human, all too Human and Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche lays out the key traits of his Ãbermensch. This intellectual overman has a "profound degree of suspicion" of society (Human 17) and thus, like Zarathustra, would "posses his spirit in solitude" (Zar. 3), living isolated from others in the mountains until he can rise above the everyday values of society. He is a man of "a high and select kind" (Human 18) who "do[es] not give alms" (Zar. 4). Most importantly, he was once a "fettered...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 739 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4422 literature essays, 1447 sample college application essays, 182 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.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in