Theme Of The Dead By James Joyce

Decent Essays
The Dead is a short story written by James Joyce and published in a book called Dubliners. Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories, first published in 1914.
James Joyce is an Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet. He was born in 1882 into a middle-class family in Dublin and despite have an alcoholic father with unpredictable spending habits, he was able to excel in school and proceed to use his hometown and background to create exceptional works of art.
Dubliners is a naturalistic depiction of middle-class life in Ireland in the early 20th century. Joyce uses no real consistency or theme throughout this collection of short stories except for his revolutionary style of starting a story with a conflict and refusing to include
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It immediately gives you an expectation that the novella will be focused around the death of a person. However, as you read the story you come to realize that the title is predominantly symbolism for the stagnant beliefs of many of the stories characters. We first experience death with the character of Lily, the caretaker’s daughter. She experiences the death of hope and excitement, this is apparent when she glances at Gabriel with bitterness and states she has no intention of marriage as ‘the men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you’. This sets a sombre tone for the reader as it is unusual for someone so young to feel so cynical. We see the death of a friendship between Mr. Conroy and Miss Ivors as they disagree about their patriotism and free will to exercise their beliefs. Miss Ivors calls Gabriel a ‘West Briton’ and promptly exits the party. This has the audience questioning what is wrong with being a West Briton? Why is Gabriel ashamed? And who is right? Mr. Conroy or Miss Ivors?

The most prominent moment of death in The Dead is when Mrs. Conroy describes a story from her childhood. Caught up in emotion, she blames herself for the death of a childhood friend that she was once close with. Ironically, the explanation of this death is what creates a new bond of closeness between Mr. and Mrs. Conroy and births new feelings of passion and trust, thus ending their relationship
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Symbolised heavily with the snow that has left all of Ireland at a standstill, we can see paralysis play a part throughout the story and the characters’ lives. We can see from the conversation between guests, that Gabriel’s acquaintances are very much anti Briton and anti the new generation coming through. Mr. and Mrs. Conroy begin the story with paralysis in their relationship, they are at an emotional standstill. Joyce repeats ideas and comments throughout the story to show his audience that the world outside of the characters remains as stood in time as they do. He writes, ‘The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington monument’ and then later in the passage reinstates this point the audience, ‘In the distance lay the park where the trees were weighted with snow.’ ‘The Wellington Monument wore a gleaming cap of snow’. It appears that the writer is asking and answering a question. It makes the reader feel as if no time had passed at all.

In conclusion, Joyce uses heavy symbolism in this fantastic novella to request that his audience question themselves, to explore their own mortality, morals and life trajectory. This work requires you to self-reflect in order to understand the path that Gabriel is enduring. The writing implores you to use your own creativity and self-reflection to find not only Gabriel’s resolution but the resolutions to your
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