James Joyce The Dead
Date of submission
James Joyce’s “The Dead”
The Irish author was born, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, in 1882. James Joyce was rendered one of the greatest writers during his time (Greenblatt 2276). Before his demise in 1941, he published his last short story in the Dubliners compilation. It is necessary to note that the stories revolved around the Irish and their social classes. The last story was entitled, “The Dead” which was the longest of the fourteen other stories (Greenblatt 2276). This paper will critically examine and analyze James Joyce’s “The Dead”.
“The Dead” is a story that revolves around ten characters. The story begins when Professor Gabriel Conroy, the protagonist of the story, attends Kate and Julia Morkan’s Christmas party. The two women are his aunts. However, Gabriel and his wife, Gretta, get there late. When Lily, the housekeeper, is removing his coat, Gabriel inquires her about her intimate life. The question disturbs her thus she does not willingly answer him. Gabriel notices the awkward moment thus he subtly ends the conversation (Joyce 127). He approaches his wife and begins a conversation concerning where they would sleep that night. Immediately, Freddy Malins arrives at the party, and all the attention is shifted toward him. Freddy is an alcoholic hence Gabriel has to take care of his friend. In fact, he is already drunk when he arrives at the party (Greenblatt 2282).
Later, Gabriel shares a dance with his colleague, Miss Ivors, to Mary Jane’s piano melody (Joyce & Thomas 18). They have a conversation about his reviews in the newspaper as Miss Ivors makes fun of him because of the same. After he denies Miss Ivors’ claims, she invites Gabriel to a trip during summer but, he revokes the invite. She seems offended hence Gabriel explains to her about his exhaustion of Ireland. The conversation ends, Gabriel walks away but, he does not stop thinking about their encounter (Joyce 129).
The guests feed after Julia entertains them with a song. Howbeit, Miss Ivors is not among them because she leaves the party before dinner is served. In his speech, Gabriel remembers to acknowledge his aunts and Mary Jane for hosting them that night. His speech incorporates elements of appreciation and focuses on the present. It is a powerful speech that garners applause from the audience (Joyce & Thomas 27-28).
Gabriel narrates a story about a horse and his grandfather. However, he realizes that his wife is not paying attention. She is more focused on Bartell D’Arcy’s music than the story. Gabriel is not happy and attempts to wow his wife by intimate gestures. Unfortunately, she does not comply, and Gabriel becomes vexed by his wife’s behavior. Gretta finally informs her husband that the music was a remembrance of her late ex-lover, Michael Furey. As a matter of fact, she tells Gabriel that he died in the cold weather right adjacent to her window. While narrating the story, Gretta sheds a lot of tears before falling asleep. The story ends when Gabriel is perturbed and has thoughts of Michael and his country, Ireland (Greenblatt 2286).
The analysis of this story begins with Gabriel Conroy. He is seen as an authoritative and egotistical symbol. As observed, he takes care of his friend and other responsibilities bestowed upon him by his aunts. The author clearly depicts a symbol of authority in Gabriel Conroy’s character (Greenblatt 2282). Additionally, the protagonist is seen to be egotistical and confident regarding his encounters with females in the story. When he disrespects Lily, Gabriel seems indifferent about the situation and simply dismisses the conversation by changing the topic. In fact, he claims that his level of education does not allow him to relate well with people of Lily’s caliber (Joyce & Thomas 3). Also, during his dance with Miss Ivors, Gabriel’s disregard for his country brings out his pride and ego. As discussed, he openly rejects her invite claiming that he is bored of Ireland. His response to Miss Ivors is almost rude (Joyce & Thomas 24).
Gretta’s fixation on Bartell D’Arcy’s music clearly shows the readers another of Gabriel’s traits. Apart from ego and authority, he is also a controlling man. It is clear that Gabriel is perturbed because he cannot understand Gretta’s feelings toward the music. He also gets angry when Gretta does not respond to his intimate advances. When they reach their room, Gretta confesses her thoughts and Gabriel is terribly angry. Due to his controlling personality, he is offended that his wife still has thoughts of Michael. This gesture makes him realize that he would never have full control over Gretta. On the contrary, he wanted to obtain full control over Gretta because of his wretched personality.
When Gretta falls asleep, Gabriel is less angry. He is no longer jealous but is surrounded by sadness and realizes that Michael, indeed, loved Gretta. He questions himself and wonders whether he would die too. In fact, he contemplates on the fact that, Michael was loving, passionate and caring yet he still died. The mention of Michael causes Gabriel to examine his life and his ways. After Gretta tells him about Michael, he realizes that his speech was not workable. He urges the audience to forget about their past and focus on the present. However, through his experience, he realizes that it was impossible. It is through Michael’s memory that he relates the people of Ireland. He constantly has thoughts of the people of Ireland perishing in the same way that Michael did. The protagonist is still skeptical about Ireland hence it is confusing to know whether he will change and become a better man.
The annual party thrown by Kate and Julia Morkan describes the monotony in the Dublin people. It is salient to note that the people repeat the same events each and every year. Consequently, the people are accustomed to the same routine that hinders their growth. They neither engage in new activities nor mingle with different people. The people of Dublin are not familiar with other parts of the world rather than their usual ones. The routine of the people is the same. Gabriel delivers a speech, Mary Jane offers a musical presentation and Freddy gets to the party while drunk, among others. It is unfortunate that the people also indulge in the same annual meals (Joyce 135).
This paper has given a clear summary and analysis of the short story by James Joyce. Understanding the summary assists readers to analyze the story. It is salient that the author discusses Ireland and its challenges in this short story. The events of the story clearly portray the situation of the people and their country. Also, through the protagonist’s speech, difficulty in separation of the past and present is evident. He constantly thinks about Michael thus bringing the past into the present. Also, he focuses on the snow that leads to Michael’s death. He relates the snow to the Dublin people thus inferring that the people would also lose their lives. Howbeit, the people may salvage themselves by engaging in different routines. The people should also shun the past and focus on the future, without fail. It is clear that Joyce uses the characters to relate to Ireland. It was best for the author to use Irish characters to suit perfectly the story. As these characters elicit the monotony of their lives, they indirectly give details about their lives. When individuals succumb to the same deadening activities, they cease to live. In fact, routine often turns a person into a zombie; as described by James Joyce. Additionally, the author has clearly brought out the controlling nature of Gabriel in the story. It is clear that he may be referring to men in general. Most of them often yearn to control the women in their lives. They consider themselves superior thus desist from respecting women. It is necessary for couples to offer one another space and respect. Also, it is clear that Gretta may still have Michael’s thoughts because he was a good man. In comparison to Gabriel, Michael was great. As the story continues, Gabriel acknowledges the same when he considers changing his behavior for the best. Finally, the title of this story, “The Dead”, clearly emanates from this same routine followed by the people of Dublin.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. , 2013. Print.
Joyce, James. Dubliners (A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Margot Norris. University of California: Irvine, 2006. Print.
Joyce, James, and Thomas Fasano. The Dead. , 2008. Print.