The Dead By James Joyce

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“Think You 're Escaping and Run into Yourself” : An Analysis of Memories as a Form of Escape in James Joyce’s “The Dead” In “The Dead,” James Joyce marks his characters’ lives with an overwhelming paralysis that they can only break away from by reliving their memories. Gabriel seeks solace in his memories, but in reliving them he only succeeds in extending his self-imposed prison of paralysis and enhancing the stagnation he perceives in his life. Gabriel focuses on the emotional sincerity of the events in which he partakes, but, in doing so, he sacrifices the credibility of his recollections. Therefore, although Gabriel may alter the factual accuracy of his memories, he is able to transfigure the past and use it as a form of escape from…show more content…
His inclination towards the glamourous is accompanied by a deliberate dismissal of anything that contradicts his idealized version of the world. When Gabriel notices Gretta standing on the stairs, he wonders what “a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of” (2303). He sentimentalizes Gretta’s actions and, as they have no immediately perceptible significance, provides her with meaning. He is mindful of the atmosphere of the moment, and notes to himself that “If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude” (2303). Gabriel’s imposition of this equivocal “attitude” upon Gretta allows him to romanticize her and subjectively interpret her actions. This affectionate moment is antithesized by Gabriel’s memory of his mother describing Gretta as “country cute” (2289), which he maintains is “not true of Gretta at all” (2289). However, it is unclear whether or not this is, in fact, an inaccurate portrayal of Gretta, as Gabriel perceives a glorified version of Gretta. He rejects anything that does not either affirm or coincide with his notion of reality. Indeed, when inconsistencies with his construal of reality arise, he seeks refuge in his blissful memories of the past, which invariably support his view of the world. Gabriel relies on the past to alleviate his current feelings of dissatisfaction and paralysis. As he is happiest

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