James Joyce's The Dead

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Individual or Ireland: A Literature Review for “The Dead”
Long, bitter battles are fought over the meanings of great works of literature and the ambiguity of James Joyce’s “The Dead” makes it ripe for debate.“The Dead” centers on an evening in the life of Gabriel Conroy, an introspective urbanized Irish upperclassman attending his elderly aunts’ party. During the course of the evening, Gabriel has several unsettling encounters with the other partygoers, whom he deems traditional and inferior to himself, and learns of the sacrificial death of his wife’s former lover, all of which lead Gabriel to somewhat ambiguous realizations about life. Although “The Dead” is, on the surface, a simple, rather uneventful short story, a study of James Joyce’s
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Whelan offers an intriguing reading casting Michael Furey nearly as a ghost that haunts Gabriel, personified in the story by the ubiquitous snow and cold. If this be true, Michael Furey is a much more important character to the story than previously thought. Whether it is the cool air of the Conroys’ hotel room or the death of cold that Mrs. Malins is supposedly going to get, Furey is a fairly constant presence in the story. Particularly haunting is the end scene where “Gabriel 's attention is directed to the snow outside by ‘a few light taps upon the pane,’ recalling Michael 's efforts to attract Gretta 's attention by throwing gravel up at her window,” (Whelan). Contrastingly, Morrissey’s text portrays Michael Furey as little more than someone “whom he [Gabriel] would rather forget,” (Morrissey 27). Furey’s simple role as the boy who died for love of Gretta is adopted by Morrissey’s article, while Whelan takes an entirely different approach that puts Michael Furey in as large a role as Gabriel’s. On the whole, the idea that Michael Furey is a ghost haunting Gabriel may be a bit hard to believe. However, a quick dismissal of Furey to “just” the ex-lover overlooks his importance. Furey can be seen to represent Ireland’s past, which, like Gretta’s former lover, has been more romanticised, but is more genuine, if you will, than Ireland’s…show more content…
According to Whelan, snow represents “the cultural change in post-Famine Ireland—that stultifying pallor which the deadly combination of British imperialism and Roman Catholicism imposed on Irish life,” (Whelan). According to Whelan, the snow has a deep purpose in communicating the greater purpose of Joyce’s text. The snow reflects a change that has spread over all of Ireland, a change for the worse. The white snow signifies a “stultifying pallor” that connotes illness, fear, weakness, and even paralysis that has come over the country as a result of its history. Whelan maintains that the snow’s meaning is rooted in the history and context of Joyce’s
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