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THE DEAD, by James Joyce

The dead is a story from “Dubliners”, a collection of fifteen short stories published in 1914. They
form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of
the 20th century.
The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national
identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by
various converging ideas and influences.
The story can be divided in three parts: The first one, the arrival of the guests and first dances,
the second part Gabriel´s dance with Miss Ivors, the supper and the speech and the last one: Mr.
Darcy´s song and Gretta´s confession. These three stages involve one specific topic: Gabriel´s
acknowledgment of his own psychological paralysis.
Joyce uses use of alliterative patterns, sound effects, repetitions to evoke an atmosphere between
death and awareness; give unity to the paragraph, enacting the writer’s intention to evoke the
unity of all creatures in the universe
The characters who are involved in this story are:

 Gabriel Conroy – The main character


 Kate Morkan and Julia Morkan – Gabriel and Mary Jane's aunts.
 Mary Jane Morkan – Niece of Kate and Julia Morkan.
 Lily – Maid
 Gretta Conroy – Gabriel's wife.
 Molly Ivors – Gabriel´s friend.
 Mr. Browne – Only Protestant guest at the party.
 Bartell D'Arcy – Famous tenor, he is retired.
 Patrick Morkan – Death brother of Kate and Julia, He is also Mary Jane´s father.
 Michael Furey - Young love of Gretta. Died very young
 Freddy Malins – Friend of Gabriel who tends to get drunk often.

Different subjects are dealt with in the development of this story such as: the moral paralysis of
every Irishman: The Irish are seen as hypocrites, spiritually and morally paralyzed by the nets of
social norms and conventions. The best example of this is the main character – Gabriel. He cares
only about himself and is obsessed with the impression he leaves on others, he has to have
everything in control, and otherwise he doesn’t know how to act. Being an intellectual and overly
educated, he doesn’t know how to converse with people of different social class and education.
He’s paralyzed by his self-consciousness. He feels uncomfortable when someone is opposing his
attitudes, and, instead of defending himself diplomatically as an intellectual, he runs away from
conflicts. Gabriel is spiritually dead, as he’s unable to move forward and feel deep emotions, he’s
walking around in circles like old Morkan’s horse. But, in the end of the story he receives the
epiphany – revelation and disillusionment as he finds out that his marriage wasn’t based on true,
passionate love. His wife, Gretta, knew a boy in her youth, Michael Furey, who loved her so much
that he was ready to sacrifice his life for her. Realizing that he could never feel that young boy boy
felt, Gabriel starts to observe his life in a new way.

Joycean epiphany:
• Epiphany which means: Manifestation, appearance or revelation is literary device Joyce
uses in his work. He referred to daily and routine passages of an individual's life, but at
the same time they were able to acquire such a meaning that they made us understand the
essence of that individual. Joyce achieved this existentialist effect through literary
techniques of realism and naturalism on the one hand, and symbolism on the other. The
epiphany is highly connected with the stream of consciousness. We have a clear example
of this concept at the end of The Dead: Gabriel and Gretta are leaving the party when she
stops in the staircase listening to a song (The Lass of Augrim) that takes her to her
grandparents house many years ago. Gabriel looks at her and a feeling of desire increases
inside him. But the desire embarrasses him and he does not dare to require her until she
reaches the room, then he realizes that she cries, she is remembering Michael Furey, a
young man who met her when she was sixteen years old and who died for her. That young
wanted to see her in a rainy cold day, even though his health was fragile. In that moment
is when Gabriel´s epiphany happens. As I said earlier the epiphany has symbolism into it:
Gabriel talks about going to the west: The west is where the sun sets which can be
interpreted as the death or accept to be totally Irish because the west is where the real roots
of Ireland are. Another symbol is the snow: Cold paralysis of Gabriel´s emotional life.
Falls over the soul of the living and the dead. Falls into Michael´s grave and every people
of Ireland:“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland” which
means that the whole Irish population were death as well. There is also symbolism in the
names: Gabriel angel of annunciation and the hope of rebirth. Michael Michel (Furey) The
avanging angel and remorse