At the beginning of the twentieth century, chances for marriage in Ireland were slim. Gabriel and Gretta Conroy in “The Dead,"are the only married couple at the Morkin sisters Christmas party. While Mr. Duffy in “A Painful Case," and Maria in “Clay," who both live alone, certainly illustrate the emptiness of isolation, two married characters also seem upon consideration to be just as isolated. Mr. Duffy’s obsession with his predictable life costs him a golden chance at love.
In “Eveline," the young girl has a chance to save herself from a life of poverty but cannot move, as if she was trapped, when her chance to flee arrives. She is trapped by her poverty that makes her family dependent upon her economically and social conventions that insure she will care for her family even though her father is abusive and keeps all her money. She will live out her life in poverty, as her mother did, making thankless sacrifices for all until she too loses her mind: “that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in craziness” (28). Mr. Doran, in "The Boarding House," has been tricked into marriage by Mrs. Mooney: “the instinct of the celibate warned him to hold back"(52). He does not love Pol...
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...ad are more alive to many than the living. Gabriel Conroy's final, stark self-evaluation serves to crystallize the very essence of this hemiplegia in a few finely honed sentences. He realizes that, trapped as he is, he is incapable of real passion, real emotion: “He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.'” He can no more 'apprehend' this intensity of feeling any more than one whole lived such a life could perceive the “wayward and flickering existence” he shares with the hosts of the dead. He feels his own boring identity fading out, yet feels nothing. He can only stare at the individual, unique snowflakes that hit his window, but cannot enter his little world. The image of the snowflake is soon faded into the grey shapeless mass of snow. His stories depict Dublin as a place conducive to self-destruction.
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