Grace by James Joyce, 1914
The magic trick:
The opening action-packed scene
Here we have Joyce’s full-on attack on Catholicism. Where the rest of Dubliners chips away here and there, “Grace” is a complete and total assault on what the author perceives to be the ignorance and hypocrisy of the religious among him. If that sounds a little heavy handed, you’re right. It does get a little heavy handy, and a whole lot talky. Fortunately, the story grabs the reader with the opening section in which we meet Tom Kernan. It’s not his finest hour. He is falling down some steps in a drunken stupor nearly biting his tongue off. Now that folks is an entry point. And that’s quite a trick on Joyce’s part.
Mr. Cunningham intervened promptly. ”We’ll all renounce the devil,” he said, “together, not forgetting his works and pomps.” ”Get behind me, Satan!” said Mr. Fogarty, laughing and looking at the others. Mr. Power said nothing. He felt completely out-generalled. But a pleased expression flickered across his face. ”All we have to do,” said Mr. Cunningham, “is to stand up with lighted candles in our hands and renew our baptismal vows.” ”O, don’t forget the candle, Tom,” said Mr. M’Coy, “whatever you do.” ”What?” said Mr. Kernan. “Must I have a candle?” ”O yes,” said Mr. Cunningham.