a deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris


The following passage is quoted from Dubliners by James Joyce.
What did he mean by "a deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris"?

It was an oval face with strongly marked features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze began with a defiant note, but was confused by what seemed a deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself quickly, this half-disclosed nature fell again under the reign of prudence, and astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely. [ A Painful Case p.107 Penguin Modern Classics (1964) ]
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  • DocPenfro

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Dilation of the pupil is normally an emotional response to a situation. In this case I think it is intended to suggest that the woman is attracted to the man. If the "swoon of the pupil" (i.e. dilation) was deliberate, it implies that she is behaving flirtatiously.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    This is very colorful language. Very few people (if any) can deliberately dilate their pupil, so it must be taken figuratively. Note the preceding "seemed".
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