Resignation to a Fate of Clay

In James Joyce's short story "Clay," fate forces Maria into a nun-like existence and keeps her from realizing her dream of marriage. She seems content with her position on the exterior, but several clues suggest this is not the case. Joyce makes this clear as he sets up the first half of the story in the Lamplight Laundry, presenting Maria at her best - loved and appreciated. In the second half, on the way to and at the Donnellys' house, her discomfort and disappointment become clear. By the end of the story, it is evident that Maria is resigned to the lot fate has cast her.

The futility of Maria's dream of marriage is apparent throughout the story, which begins at the laundromat where Maria is employed. This section is permeated with references to Maria's similarities to a nun figure. Her name, Maria, is the first example. Joe, whom Maria looked after when he was a child, said "Mamma is mamma but Maria is my proper mother" (Joyce, 2442), drawing a connection between her and the Mother Mary. Her comforting voice is frequently heard saying "Yes, my dear, and No, my dear" (Joyce, 2441), reminiscent of the words of a priest listening to confessions. She is referred to as "a...

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