Friday, December 22, 2006

'A Little Cloud' by James Joyce

Today I read a beautiful story called 'A little cloud' by James Joyce. It is one of the stories in his 'Dubliners'. I hope to write about the collection itself some other time, but this story touched me so much that I just am not able to keep myself from writing about it.
'A little cloud' is about a timid man named Chandler, working as a clerk at an office. The little cloud is brought on by an old acquaintance, Gallaher. Gallaher was a no-good youth who has made worldly fortune by working in the press. When C. meets G., he(C.) wonders why he did not go away elsewhere, and become a writer like (or better than) G., he being a man of better birth and education. He blames his timidity for his failures in life. He goes home, and regrets marrying his wife. He resents his son, a small baby, for not allowing him to read, and yells at him when he cries. And then he feels sorry for everything. The cloud passes.
The story itself is very simple, but touches one profoundly. I am sure many people go through the emotions C. did. I have, at least, and know some people who did, too. Jealousy is a very, very basic human instinct. So is exhibitionism. If you are expected to turn out bad, but you don't, you will want show people that they were wrong. That is a rule. And if you meet someone who turned out better than you, you'll want to be in his/her shoes. That's a rule too. It is like shopping for a saree. One can almost always gets a good pick if (s)he looks at what others are buying. (aside: I do not know if men experience the same thing... do they?)
Why is human nature like this? We always find the *necessity* to be better than our peers, to own bigger houses and faster cars and try to make our kids do better than theirs. Is it good? Is it bad? I do not know.. It is just a fact of life, and we have to live with it.