Exiles by James Joyce
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
The Heart flutters. Fill it to brim with love and it still flutters at the corners for freedom. Dump in a handful of greed and it continues to flutter in the remaining space for ablution. Allow peace to be its sole tenant and it still flutters at the bottom for silent passion.
What do you do of the adamant, furtive heart? One who doesn’t know bowing, doesn’t recognize rules, doesn’t believe in silence, doesn’t belong to society? What can you possibly make it understand when all the understanding roots from its depths and all the dilemmas are its doing too? Oh! You thought your mind was an experienced superior who could discipline the meek junior heart? Oh no, Sir; this little student takes no taming. It’s the only student that is forever the teacher, in essence.
Take a leaf from the genius’ mind and rectify your note. Disentangling the heart maze prove too dear for him too.
In the aptly titled Exiles , a middle-aged couple, Richard and Bertha, find their moral allegiances tested by the coyly subdued Beatrice and charmingly passionate Robert respectively. It doesn’t help that Richard and Robert are college friends and Beatrice, Robert’s cousin. Richard’s taut mind often doubles up as a fierce battleground where his morality takes on its nemesis, who creeps up from the tunnels of heart and hurls abuses, recklessly. And Bertha’s heart is in the middle of this whirlpool, armed only with its chastity which gets regularly attacked by heated waves of mercurial independence. Both are cajoled in active ways and passive, to break the pungent shackles and outpour their muted emotions. But does the societal pedestal, that has elevated them to their envious, distinguished positions, also bind them to its rigorous chains, rooted in tradition and inelasticity? Can they burrow their existence to retrieve an arm, potent enough to sever the society watch gates and impart freedom to the heart bird? Do they even know if the heart is not a migratory bird, who in its frenzy, can take them to an alien land, only to abandon it in the next season of life?
Often quoted as an attempt by Joyce to depict his own life through the thinking and conflicting Richard, this play assumes a certain autobiographical garb, which in itself becomes a fascinating journey into the mind-boggling interior alleys of one of the most revered writers we have come to know of. His Imaginative Mind vs His Belligerent Heart reinforces the age old battle of the two entities that alone navigate man, giving twopence to his own biases.
I imagine Joyce cut his heart into two, sealed each with his past and present saps and assumed the two halves would continue beating, insulated to each other’s existence. But he soon watched, dumbfounded, the saps, melting at the divide and fluttering greedily in future union. Sigh…The Heart flutters.
[Image courtesy livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au]