James Joyce’s “The Dead” is a story that is centralized around a party with much joy. At the party, readers see the affectionate interactions between families and friends of all ages. The story as a whole mixes the joy with somber further on in the story, and readers gradually recognize that changes in the mood of the story. The story takes place in Ireland, and the oppression the country is in reflects on the moods and personalities of the characters. Throughout the story, Joyce uses different elements that add to the over-arching theme of the entire piece. The themes, symbolism, and interactions between characters mix and add up to something bigger and it is revealed in the end when we see Gabriel’s burst of emotions and dramatic tensions.
One important element that Joyce uses is paralysis and its effect on Gabriel in the end. This is seen through the symbolism in the snow and how motionless something becomes when it is frozen, and in this case the winter contributes to this. Gabriel’s homeland Ireland has been frozen due to the cold temperatures and it has paralyzed him as well. “A light fringe of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat.” Throughout the story, Gabriel is very dethatched from the people of Ireland, acting as though he is better than they are. The denial that he is a true Irishman, along with his encounters with Miss Ivors that reinforce Gabriel’s uninterest play a role in the paralysis. However, at the end of the story, we see the connection that forms between Gabriel and the other people of Ireland as he becomes heart-broken over the loss of his wife and the description of Ireland being covered in snow.
An element that James Joyce uses from the beginning of the story to the end is mortality. Starting with the story, death is used throughout the story is different ways. Gabriel’s aunts are living in an old house and they are all starting to show signs of getting older, like hearing loss. They are referred to as...
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