|Exiles (1918) [Play]|
by James Joyce
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The only extant play by the great Irish novelist James Joyce, Exiles
is of interest for its autobiographical content. The main character, Richard Rowan, the moody, tormented writer who is at odds with both his wife and the parochial Irish society around him, is clearly a portrait of Joyce himself. The character of Rowan's wife, Bertha, is certainly influenced by Joyce's lover and later wife, Nora Barnacle. And, as in real life, the play depicts the couple with a young son, and Rowan, like Joyce, has returned to Ireland because of his mother's illness and subsequent death.
In the largely interior drama focused on the characters' relationships, the undertones of guilt and the longing for freedom mirror themes of the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Long an admirer of Ibsen, Joyce emulated the Scandinavian master in making the central issue of his drama the conflict between individual freedom and a demanding, judgmental society.
Though one of his lesser-known works, Exiles, written after Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and while Joyce was working on Ulysses, provides fascinating insights into the development of the creative gifts of a literary genius.
Original title: Exiles
Genre: Drama and Plays→ Irish