James Joyce’s “An Encounter”: From the Perversion of an Escape to the Perversion of the Fatherhood

Omid Ghahreman, Farideh Pourgiv


Ambiguity is an indispensable part of modern fiction that has always implied what is always merited as the ‘literariness’ and ‘sophistication’ of that fiction. In modern fiction, particularly in James Joyce’s Dubliners, ambiguity and indeterminacy transcend the textual difficulty and achieve a ‘mysterious’ level. That is to say, Joyce renders the frequent unfinished and elliptical sentences, as well as the absent words, phrases, paragraphs, and even characters more significant than all those present. In Dubliners, this unique concept of ambiguity and indeterminacy, that tends to be Joyce’s narrative signature, is called “gnomonic” – a term derived from Euclid’s gnomon. A gnomon is formed by removing a similar parallelogram from a corner of a larger parallelogram. Gnomons in Dubliners indicate not only the incompletion and failure, but also the dialectical cycle of presence and absence. Words prove mostly insufficient to convey meaning, and actions are subject to failure even before they start. But Joyce’s approach to gnomon is not a passively confirming one. Joyce skillfully benefits the mysterious condition that his gnomonics make for sustaining his creativity in order to overwhelm intellectually the distorting powers in his society. Therefore, if Joyce’s stories seem unsolvable and vague, it is not because of their merely textual difficulties. They present, instead, some gnomonic mysteries of varying degrees and depths. As a way to get readers to read Joyce thoughtfully, this study is going to shed light on this unique gnomonic nature of Joycean mysteries in “An Encounter”, one of the childhood stories in Dubliners.



Joyce, Dubliners, An Encounter, ambiguity, gnomon, paralysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.2n.2p.158


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