Comparing the Living Dead in James Joyce's The Dead and Dubliners

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Dubliners and The Living Dead

In his work "The Dead," James Joyce utilizes his character Michael Furey, Gretta Conroy's deceased love from her youth, as an apparent symbol of how the dead have a steadfast and continuous power over the living. The dominant power which Michael maintains over the protagonist, Gabriel Conroy, is that Gabriel is faced with the intense question of whether his wife, Gretta Conroy, loves him and whether he honestly loves her. Joyce provides substantial information to persuade one to believe that Gabriel does truly love his wife. Even though it is made evident to the reader that Gabriel possesses such devotion and adoration for Gretta, Michael diverts Gabriel's confidence in his love, causing Gabriel to come to terms with his understanding that his life is not as Gabriel once thought it to be. Through this process of misleading realization, Gabriel has allowed himself to become one of the many living dead of his community in Dublin.

During the taxi ride from his aunts' party to their hotel, Gabriel reminisces about his and Gretta's lives together. Joyce enforces the passion of Gabriel's thoughts, "Moments of their secret life together burst like stars on his memory" (Joyce 173). Joyce continues to fill his readers thoughts with examples of the Conroy's wonderful life: "He had felt proud and happy then, happy that she was his proud of her grace and wifely carriage... after the kindling again of so many memories, the first touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust" (Joyce 175). Gabriel seizes Gretta in a passionate embrace and inquires into her thoughts. Gretta hesitates at first then proceeds to explain the tragic tale...

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...ased to consider themselves irrelevant as living beings.

Gabriel Conroy, through his self-righteous concern for others, has created an internal paralysis. Because Gabriel dwells on events in the past he is unable to move forward in his life with satisfaction. Although Gabriel indisputably loves his wife, the elusive curse created by Michael Furey's inconsequential existence, long before he and Gretta were involved, has instigated unruly thoughts on Gabriel's behalf. This vague and malicious being breaks down Gabriel's ego; he questions the validity of his and Gretta's love for one another and the significance of his own life. These thought processes cause Gabriel to believe himself better off dead rather than alive, banishing him to a life of eternal discontent.

Works Cited

Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
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