The Dead by James Joyce is a story of Gabriel Conroy’s interactions and reactions at his Aunts Annual Dance. The Dance is set at the time of the Epiphany and brings together many of Gabriel’s relatives as well as lifelong friends of the family which Gabriel feels are not up to his esteemed level however; he cannot be further from the truth.
Gabriel Conroy is a scholarly teacher and literary reviewer who believes his knowledge is more extensive than most and shows this through his various interactions throughout the story. He grew up in Ireland but favors France and England as in his eyes they are the more sophisticated countries and he is a more sophisticated man so their fit is more proper than his actual fit. He starts the night off on the wrong foot during his opening conversation with the housemaid Lily, asking about her eventual marriage which was not in sight, and continues through his torrid dance with an old friend whom he thinks is degrading him but in truth is only playing with him. He ends up mistreating her and their conversation which puts him on the defensive for the remainder of the evening leading to deeply disturbing conversation with his wife about her former love, Michael Furey, who died for her hand.
These occurrences shake Gabriel’s confidences to the point where they make Gabriel take a long look inside himself and decide whether his life had as much to give to his wife as the love that she had lost. Joyce tells of Gabriel’s internal struggles with feelings of inadequacy stating, “He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes…tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself but he knew that such a feeling must be love” (Leguin, 2002) and he was right. He had never allowed himself to love, or to believe with blind faith, or even to live because he was too concerned with becoming better than all. With all of the love around him, there was emptiness in his...
Cited: Leguin, Ursula K. Select Writers of the Twentieth Century: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. New York: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005. Print.
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