Adaptations of literary works to the screen leave some audiences with a feeling of fulfillment while the work may leave others to criticize the attempt. Some prefer to “visualize” the characters while they read, and, rarely, do these “mental pictures” coincide with those of the film maker. Critical questions are raised about the faithfulness of the film to the text or about the director's interpretation of the work. In the specific example of James Joyce's “The Dead” readers may appreciate John Huston's adaptation for its faithfulness to the time period-lighting, costumes, music, diction-or they may criticize it for questionable additions and deletions.
The short story “The Dead” by James Joyce is a narrative that follows Gabriel Conroy through a series of awkward and uncomfortable situations. Gabriel's uneasiness and self-consciousness is apparent from the opening scene with Lily, the housemaid, as she takes his coat, to his conversation with Miss Ivors, an enthusiastic supporter of Irish nationalism, in which she calls Gabriel a “West Britton”. At dinner Gabriel gives a rousing speech praising Kate, Julia, and Mary Jane for their hospitality in an age that has lost a sense of this virtue. He also, ironically, insists that people must not linger on the past and dead, but, instead, on the present and those living. Later in the evening at the hotel with his wife, Gretta, Gabriel learns of his wife's former lover, Michael Furey. Gretta later falls asleep but Gabriel remains awake and contemplates his own morality. By introducing Gabriel into uncomfortable encounters with women, Joyce is able to fully develop the character until, finally, he experiences an epiphany.
Gabriel Conroy's restrained behavior and his reputation with his aunts as the nephew who handles everything make him a man of authority and caution, but the encounters with Lily and Miss Ivors at the party challenge his confidence. First, Gabriel clumsily arouses a defensive statement from Lily when...
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