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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
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Gabriel becomes distraught at the revelation of her statement. Joyce describes Gabriel's anguished state, "Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love" (Joyce 182). Gabriel is perplexed as to why, if Gretta loves him so much, she still possesses memories of her first love. He also wonders why this important detail of Gretta's life was not brought to his attention at an earlier point. Gabriel's recognition that he has been excluded from what he believes to be the deepest experience of Gretta's life now becomes the deepest experience of his life. Gretta's reaction to his questions about her first love causes Gabriel to become overwhelmed by Michael Furey's control over him.

Gabriel by his ideas, his tastes, and his sensitivities has been isolated from others but always found solace in his self-esteem. Michael Furey has destroyed this. "The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the particular darkness he imagined he saw a young man standing under a dripping tree" (Joyce 182). Though Michael is certainly dead in body, he lives on in the memories of both Gretta and Gabriel, and his influence can in no way be obliterated. Joyce depicts the power Michael has over Gabriel, "A vague terror seized Gabriel... as if... some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces in its vague world" (Joyce
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