James Joyce’s “The Dead”
A Culmination and a Cornerstone
How is this story similar to other
stories in Dubliners?
Like Eliza and Nannie in the first story in the
collection, Julia and Kate are two sisters around
whom a large part of the story circulates.
Women in both stories seem to have limited
opportunities. (All the sisters are spinsters, and
Mary Jane and Lily seem destined to be as well.
Lily can only make subsistence earnings living off
The church partly to blame for the paralysis of
Father Flynn likewise holds the Morken sisters
back in their musical career.
Gabriel’s querying of Lily loosely suggests a foray
into an inappropriate subject with Lily, or at least
her response makes it seem so.
Gabriel would like to escape the party and go
walking in the snow (like the miching boys).
Mention of both the Catholics and the Protestants
in both stories (priest and the Swaddlers in “An
Encounter” and the Pope, a priest and Trinity
University – a Protestant institution – in “The
Michael Furey’s love for Gretta is romantic like that
of the unnamed narrator for Mangan’s sister in
Michael Furey, whose name signifies a passion
that burns out quickly, made a quest to Gretta (like
the boy’s quest to Araby), despite his ill health and
the bad weather.
Gretta was leaving Galway to go to the convent,
just as Mangan’s sister cannot attend the bazaar
because she must go on a retreat with her church
(church as oppressor of true living).
Both Eveline and Gabriel are trapped behind
windows, longing for veritable escapes.
The wistful preoccupation with what could have
been will surely be a part of Eveline’s adulthood
much as it is a part of Gretta’s.
Both women had a chance at a much different
existence and did not/could not take it.
A death in both cases is largely responsible for
“The Boarding House”
Julia, Kate, Mary Jane, and Lily live in a boarding
house, though we get the idea that it is a place of
much greater propriety than Mrs. Mooney’s
Again readers are lead to see the limited
opportunities for women (especially if they are not
being supported by a husband or the church).
Both stories highlight a son who is a “hard case”
(Jack Mooney in “The Boarding House” and
Freddy Malins in “The Dead.”)
“A Little Cloud”
Gabriel in many ways is like Little Chandler:
he is basically a clean-living, good person
who feels in the end that he is unfulfilled in
his life and in his marriage.
Both men understand that the confines of
Dublin and Ireland are limiting.
Freddy Malins is a slightly more upright version of
Circular imagery pervades both stories (Farrington’s watch
and coins and his general cycle of living – the traditions
involved in the Morken’s Christmas feast, the quadrilles
[which is actually a box step, but begins where it ends], the
story of Johnny the horse, and the idea of life and death
connected to the seasons)
The third person narrator shows some detachment in each
story by using general terms at times for major characters.
(Farrington is “The man” through the first part of the story,
underscoring his detachment from his own life; and Mr.
Alleyne is “the head” and “the skull.” When Gabriel is
watching Gretta in the stairwell while Mr. Darcy sings “The
Lass of Aughrim” she is described as “a woman” in the
shadow and “a symbol of something” which helps to
foreshadow the idea that her husband Gabriel doesn’t really
know her that well, despite years of marriage.)
“A Painful Case”
A love-triangle exists in each story in which the
husband is unaware (at least until a point).
The idea of lost love and what could have been
leads to the epiphany is both stories.
A lover has literally died (while others in the lovetriangle are figuratively dead).
The death is part of or caused by the love
(Michael Furey dies for Gretta, while Mrs. Sinico
dies of a broken heart.)
The Irish National Movement is the most obvious
connection. (Ms. Ivors hammers politics to Gabriel, calling
him a “West Briton,” and seems to do little more than spew
propaganda and use a little token Irish for effect. Mrs.
Kearney in “A Mother” tries to capitalize on the Irish Revival
and on her daughter’s Irish-sounding name.)
Kathleen Kearney is in both stories! (The story revolves
around her the first time she appears in the collection, and
in “The Dead” she is mentioned as one of the people who
will accompany Ms. Ivors to the Arran Isles in the summer.)
In both stories Irish culture is shown in decline. (In “A
Mother” the sparse attendance at the concert, the number of
people “holding paper,” and the poor quality of the
performers reflects this; in “The Dead” Mr. D’Arcy says all
the best singers have left Ireland.)