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Human Identity in James Joyce's The Dead

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Human Identity in The Dead


The short story, "The Dead," is the final story in Dubliners, but it is characteristic of a number of previous stories. In the first story, "The Sisters," a young boy is confronted with the death of an influencing figure in his life. The women in "Eveline" and "Clay" are haunted by death: Eveline, by the memory of her mother, and Maria, by the omen of her own death. "A Painful Case" is the story of the tragic death of a rejected woman. A dead political figure is the basis of "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." All these stories revolve around characters' pains and experiences with death. James Joyce's "The Dead" exhibits the capacity of someone's death to dishearten one in their future relations and experiences.

            This short story gives voice to the emotions of a husband whose wife's romantic tie to a man who died years ago forces him to realize that there is a chapter of his wife's life of which he has no part. Gabriel Conroy and his wife, Gretta, attend the "Misses Morkan's Annual Dance," held by his two aunts, Kate and Julian Morkan. At the dance, Gretta is twice reminded of her past love, Michael Furey. First, a friend invites Gretta and Gabriel to Galway, the place where she had had her relationship with Michael. Secondly, she is reminded by a song sung by Mr. D'Arcy, "The Lass of Aughrim," the song Michael had sung to her on their long walks through the country. Gabriel, oblivious to her affections and anticipating a romantic evening, brings her to a hotel perceiving that "they had escaped from their lives and duties." When he questions Gretta's apathetic mood, she tells him the tragic story of Michael 's illness and how ...

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...eward for their bravery. Gabriel is faced with this question when he pictures his Aunt Julia and Michael Furey. Michael had died with passion, while his Aunt Julia will just slowly wither away. Gabriel is concerned he may have this some fate, to die an unremarkable death.

            Dubliners is significant in various literary and intellectual ways. A separation between author and the story is exercised in some stories, so the author must show details in talk and action, rather than making comments, to conjure the intended images and messages. One must rely on personal experiences in order to establish their own sentiments about the significance of the experiences of the characters in the stories. James Joyce makes universal generalizations about human identity through his knowledge of one city, Dublin


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