What It Means to Live

Topics: Love, Marriage, James Joyce Pages: 2 (820 words) Published: July 15, 2013
What It Means To Live
Can the presence or absence of love determine whether a person is truly living or is not living at all? James Joyce’s “The Dead” is a work of the Modern era. In keeping with the time, this short story focuses on self-reflection and isolation. Throughout the story, the main character Gabriel is desperately searching for where his position is in the world. Gretta, his wife, also seems to live as merely a shadow of her former her. Although the story is predominately centered on Gabriel, the marriage between him and his wife is of significant importance. Both Gabriel and Gretta struggle to find happiness in their marriage and more importantly, their lives. The various interactions between Gabriel and Gretta reveal a lack of desire, distantness and melancholy. In “The Dead,” Joyce uses Gabriel and Gretta’s relationship to communicate the desolation and isolation one may have felt during the modern era.

Joyce’s main character Gabriel is an educated, socially awkward, troubled aristocrat. Throughout the story he struggles to find his place. At the party, Gabriel displays both his social awkwardness and his self-uncertainty. Nevertheless, he is confident in his education and his position in the family. His two aunts boast his confidence during his visit and this is surely reassuring to someone such as Gabriel. He demonstrates his social awkwardness during his uncomfortable conversation with the housemaid, Lily. For the duration of the party, Gabriel is anxious, agitated and even angry at times. One would assume he is merely having a bad night; conversely, this type of behavior seems to be typical of Gabriel. It is safe to assume that he would exert the same behavior in his marriage. Secretly, Gabriel isolates himself from others because he is unsure of himself and in return, he feels great loneliness.

In contrast to her husband, Gretta is well-mannered, humble and gregarious. Her courteous personality is evident through her...
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