Naivete as a Source of Mystery in The Sisters

In "The Sisters" James Joyce creates an elusive mystery surrounding the death of James Flynn by withholding narrator insight into the events of the story. He achieves this by selecting a young boy as the narrator, whose age is not specified but is hinted at in the condescending tones of the adult characters towards him. Thus, we get the picture of a boy who is somewhat sheltered by a protective cast of adults and naive to the ways of the world. As a result, he is unable to fully process the clues that the story drops as hints about the dark nature of Father Flynn's past, and the reader must piece together many elements of the puzzle himself, resulting in a more personal interpretation.

In the first dramatized scene, Old Cotter's "unfinished sentences" provide the first evidence of strange circumstances surrounding the preacher's death and prior mental state. He utters half clues and incomplete speculations, such as "I think it was one of those... peculiar cases... But it's hard to say...." The narrator's age-appropriate response is to rebut with childish rebelliousness, and thus he is too busy calling Cotter a "tiresome old fool!" to consider the implications of his statements about the Father. Thus, the reader must undertake...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 722 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4152 literature essays, 1394 sample college application essays, 171 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