The House of Shoes - The Beginning or End of A Soul...


"The indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his" (Joyce 179).

"He continued scraping his feet vigorously while the three women went upstairs, laughing, to the ladies' dressing room" (177).

He looked up at the pantry ceiling, which was shaking with the stamping and shuffling of feet on the floor above" (177).

These quotes are very interesting in the story.

The reference to "shoes" and "soles" provides an audience with a diverse culture view. In other words, Gabriel, a main character, provides a reader-response criticism.

So, does the reference to "feet" describe how people of different class statuses are better than other people? Or does it show how Gabriel does not want to be in Ireland because of the culture and actions of the people.

Angela mentioned that his "soul swooned slowly." My first chosen quote mentioned the "shuffling of their soles." Is this a form of reality criticism? This provides an image of how Gabriel's soul or sole on earth is fading away because of the harm that people of Europe or Ireland are creating.

There is symbolism involved in this comparison. Gabriel's human soul is fading along with his shoe sole. Both souls only have a limited amount of time on earth. This is because a shoe sole is being constantly walked upon whereas a human soul fades due to personal hardship, culture, and the constant struggle between an afterlife.

My quotes about "shoes" and Angela's quote about "souls" is similar to watching footprints in snow fade away as quickly as they were made...

Click here for the blog carnival homepage.

Click here for James Joyce's "The Dead" video production trailer. Notice towards the end of the clip that the footprints in the snow appear faint to vivid from right to left as the carriage passes by.

Do these quotes depict an author's portrayal of a person's life fading away on earth or it is only a reader-response criticism?


Wow, Derek, I did not notice all those feet references in the story. Thanks for pointing that out to me. As soon as I read your quotes, I thought of Angela’s entry as well with the reference to “soul” and the word play on “soul” vs. “sole.” I think you provide a very good interpretation of the text. I particularly liked where you said, “My quotes about "shoes" and Angela's quote about "souls" is similar to watching footprints in snow fade away as quickly as they were made…”

As for whether Joyce actually intended this or it being reader-response criticism, I don’t think we really have any real way to know. I think it certainly seems possible based upon the argument that you presented. And it is Joyce after all, tricky, tricky Joyce, he certainly could have meant to do that. But as we discussed when we were going over author intention, even if Joyce had said at some point that he meant that, we would have no way of knowing whether that was true or not. But I think you considered the historical context and the words themselves enough that if nothing else, I buy your argument : ).

I noticed the feet references as soon as I began to read. On a side note, I think my close reading skills are coming out of me! Anyways, I think that my references are reader-response criticism, but are they?

As we will never know, did Joyce intend the feet references to be related to the soul? This is why we need Joyce to be here!

As an experience blogger and carnival member, I think that we, the reader, have to use historical context, as you mentioned, and reader response in order to obtain the best answer towards the right meaning.

For future carnival members who will join our James Joyce roller coaster ride, do you believe that these references are suppose to be found and notated together as a relation or are they two separate topics?

OR are we applying the wrong criticism, then to say that there is a right one?

Wow, Derek! You made a very convincing argument here. I, like Greta, did not notice the foot references. I guess this could go back to what Dr. Cusick said in class about all the movement, specifically by walking, going on in Dubliners. Also, nice word-play here. I would not have seen the connection between "soul" and "sole." As Greta said, I think that it is impossible to know if he meant to do that. My personal opinion on the matter is probably not, simply because the work is longer and waw probably a mere coincidence. However, no matter what it was, this is still a good reading and a good response!

I never related the two points together, Angela!

I also think that Joyce was trying to illustrate how he was explaining different parts of Dublin by walking and how each story develops as a pair.

And as I stated before, the snow represents how Ireland may have a new starting point in history just as Joyce is starting a new chapter in his life.

Do you think that the "feet" references are connected to how Joyce is describing Ireland or is it a way to explain how history was made in Ireland because of the wars and disputes?

Derek, I think I'm with everyone else on this one. The point you made was really interesting and it definately showed off your close reading skills. However, I'm not sure that looking into historical criticism will give us enough information to help with historical criticisim on this one. Like Greta said, I'm not sure that we are going to find a real answer for that one.
There might be some connection with the "feet" references and using his stories to walk through Dublin like Angela suggested. However, unlike many of Joyce's other stories, we did very little of actually walking through Dublin through this story. Was Joyce trying to get us to "walk" through and discover something else in this story? This might be what you all were getting at and it just could have went over my head until now. Was Joyce having us take of a tour of something else other than Dublin with all his refernces to feet, shoes and soles/souls?

Hmm, I like what Angela said, but I think I’m more inclined to think that Joyce did make the sole/soul comparison on purpose. But of course, as we commented earlier, we will never truly have any way of knowing this for sure. But it’s kind of like the same thing I was saying on my blog:
If the reader perceives it, I still think it’s important because it changes how we interpret the text, even if only subconsciously.

Angela, I really like the point you brought up about the feet and walking. Walking and traveling through Dublin really was a big thing in the book. Maybe all the walking and feet in some ways implies how ungrounded Ireland was at the time. Ireland was struggling to form some sense of a national identity and the constant movement from place to place almost made all of the places the characters went just turn into a giant blur in my mind. Maybe this was intentional, because in a way, it kind of simulates how the Irish feel, their history, life, and landscape flash through their minds, but they just can’t seem to grab onto anything solid in order to figure out who they are. Of course, the blur of places could have also been caused by the fact that I am unfamiliar with the layout of Dublin, but who knows. What do you guys think?

In response to Katie:

I think that Joyce was trying to explain to use that we, as readers, should look for connections that relate to what he was trying to say. In other words, the walking through Ireland, even thought it was described in a limited sense, still has significant value because it shows, like Greta said, how the Irish are finding their national identity.

As for Joyce trying to make us take a tour of something else, I am not sure. We may never know this, but I think it is a great question.

Does anyone else think that Joyce was trying to represent another country or type of "walk?"

In response to Greta:

I think you have a great analysis of the text. I, too, think that Joyce was showing us that the people of Ireland were not able to grasp onto anything tangible or solid because of how fast everything was changing. This could be due to the war or trying to obtain some sense of irish or national identity.

Do you think that Joyce was trying to explain how the Irish people were trying to attain their identity or was he explaining to us how the culture cannot achieve their identity until this prejudice and separation stops?

I think maybe that Joyce was trying to show us through Greta that Ireland could not gain success without letting go the memories and fear from earlier defeats and losses. Her inability to move on after the loss of Micheal Furey eventually injures her marriage with Gabriel, maybe Joyce was using this to show Ireland that they had to constantly be moving forward to the future and not clinging to the past.

I felt really left out when he was talking about all the streets. Everything, every story even, blended together. I felt as if Joyce just walked from one story to the next, meandered around, sat down for a while, and then moved again. I just had a really time following Joyce in a lot of his stories. The movie "The Dead" did really assist my understanding of that one story at least.

And're last post blew my mind. In fact, I'm going to read it again. That was a very estute observation and I totally buy it! Great work! History has to move on, not forget, but move beyond the struggles of the past. That explanation totally opened up the story for me. I seriously have to write that down! Again, great job Katie. You get an "A" for the day in my book!

I also found the stories to be very interesting, but hard to follow sometimes. I think that the movie brought everything together for me and made complete sense. I like to see things in a visual way compared to only text or a kinesthetic manner.

An example in reference to Katie's blog could be compared to 9/11. We will never forget it, but history and culture must move beyond what happened and make the future the best that we can.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on February 20, 2009 4:05 PM.

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