Joyce’s defiance, as we saw in the last chapter, is open in his letterto Nora, but in ‘The Sisters’ it is folded inside a narrative that refuses to say what it means. The boy, who is nameless, is surrounded by two displaced father figures, the priest and old Cotter, and two maiden aunts. The title can apply perhaps equally to the aunts as to the boy and the disgraced, effeminate priest. Fr Flynn has an ‘egoistic contempt for all women-folk’ but he is himself identified as effeminate, most noticeably when he smiled, for then he ‘let his tongue lie on his lower lip’. Old Cotter’s insistence in the revised version on the boy playing with lads his own age rather than spending his time learning Latin with the priest hints at something not entirely wholesome. Throughout the story the boy repeatedly sides with the priest against the insinuations of old Cotter and the coldness of the sisters, as if to remind us of a defiant, sisterly, unconscious or suppressed gay embrace between a boy and an old man. When Nannie tempts him with a cream cracker, the boy declines. In the coffin he sees not, as the sisters do, a disappointed man or the figure of failure whose mind had gone, but someone ‘truculent in death’.