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30 pages 1 hour read

James Joyce

Counterparts

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1914

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Themes

Colonialism and Internalized Inferiority

Ireland’s history as part of the British empire traces back to the 12th century. British rule lasted until Ireland reclaimed independence for most of the country in 1921, excluding Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK. When King Henry VII imposed Protestantism as the new faith of England, most Irish Catholics didn’t follow suit, thus creating a religious divide to add to differences between the Irish and English. Over time, Scottish and English Protestants intentionally settled in Ireland, creating an Irish Protestant population that maintained social, political, and economic power over Catholics. British rule and lack of Irish autonomy created a culture of displacement and lowered class among the Irish Catholics. The irony of feeling like a second-class citizen within one’s own home country is a common phenomenon among colonized people throughout the world, and it is a sensation present throughout “Counterparts.” It is not uncommon for colonized people to internalize feelings of inferiority or prejudice, and this phenomenon is a common contemporary feature of postcolonial studies.

In James Joyce’s Dubliners, most of his characters are of the Irish Catholic majority, and with very few exceptions, they are working class. For the minority of native Irish who identified as Protestant, they enjoyed an elevated socioeconomic status.

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