Many people in society feel alienated from the world and separated from their fellow man while others may try to find meaning where none exists. In James Joyce's "The Dead," Gabriel Conroy faces these problems and questions his own identity due to a series of internal attacks and external factors that lead him to an epiphany about his relation to the world; this epiphany grants him a new beginning. The progression in Gabriel from one who feels disconnected to one who has hope parallels Joyce's changing view of Ireland from finding it to be a place of inaction to one where again hope and beauty thrive.
In "The Dead" Gabriel Conroy and his wife attend a party thrown annually by two of Gabriel¹s aunts. The set of external circumstances at this party focuses attention on the futility and meaninglessness of Gabriel¹s life. The conversation at the party is mostly about people who have died and how they seemed to have been forgotten by the party guests (Magalaner 223). This subject affects Gabriel, making him consider how his accomplishments will survive his own demise. The definitive lack of anything meaningful in the discussion at the party also disturbs Gabriel. Joyce demonstrates the "failure of politics, religion, and art to provide any meaningful outlet for the impulses that glimmer through the party" (Werner, 58). Even the man playing the piano is producing "pretentious sound without substance" (Walzl 236). Gabriel¹s surrounding environment forces him to continually attempt to make sense of his own actions.
During his aunts¹ party, Gabriel also sees his own incapacity for action. This party happens every year, but instead of viewing it as "traditio...
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..., 1988. 23-38.
Joyce, James. "The Dead." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1996. 2345-2373.
Magalaner, Marvin, and Richard M. Kain. Joyce: The Man, the Word, the Reputation. 1956. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Shiela Fitzgerald. Vol. 3. Detriot: Gale, 1989. 216-224.
Tate, Allen. "Three Commentaries: Poe, James, and Joyce." The Sawnee Review Vol LVIII (1950): 1-15. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Shiela Fitzgerald. Vol. 3. Detriot: Gale, 1989. 203-204.
Walzl, Florence L. "Gabriel and Michael: The conclusion of ?The Dead.¹" James Joyce Quarterly Vol 4 (1966): 17-31. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Shiela Fitzgerald. Vol. 3. Detriot: Gale, 1989. 233-239.
Werner, Craig Hansen. Dubliners: A Pluralistic World. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988. 56-72.
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