Symbolism in “The Dead” by James Joyce
James Joyce is lauded for his distinct style of writing in free direct discourse. Though his style may seem chaotic and disjointed, Joyce adds a single fixture to his narratives that conveys a unity and connects the otherwise haphazard dialogue. In The Dead, the final story of Joyce’s masterpiece, Dubliners, the symbol of snow unites the characters and is cause for a drastic transformation in the dynamic character, Gabriel. Snow is the catalyst that unifies mankind through the flawed essence of human nature, and expands Gabriel’s narrow mind as he escapes from a superficial mindset and enters a world of imperfect humanity.
Snowflakes are random, unique and fragile, and thus symbolic of human nature. Humanity overflows with faults and quirks, which constitute life. The versatility and volatility of snow mirrors the human disposition. For example, melting snow becomes weak and transparent water, exemplifying the pathetic, but common characteristics of humanity. Frozen snow becomes hard, strong, and unshakable ice; this represents the domineering characteristics of humanity. Joyce uses snow to illustrate both the weak and the strong traits of water and ice, thus snow represents the fissures and cracks, as well as the strength and beauty, that embody life.
Just as falling snow covers all of nature, Joyce’s snow unifies humanity with the imperfect uniqueness of human nature. The snow affects every guest arriving at Julia and Kate’s party, Freddie the watery drunk, D’Arcy the icy tenor and the many characters in between. Humanity is connected through the flawed traits of the human situation, personified in the ubiquitous blanket of snow.
Gabriel is a man obsessed with a superficial perfection, which in the beginning of the party causes him to fear the harsh reality of human nature. The moment that Gabriel enters his elderly aunt’s party, his actions speak alone for his mightier-than-thou attitude. Upon his arrival, Gabriel’s curt remark towards his wife for causing their late arrival, perfectly sets his tone as he initially tries to escape from the snow. Gabriel, “stood on the mat scraping the snow from his galoshes…He continued scraping his feet vigorously… A light fringe of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat and like toecaps on the toes of his galoshes” (2497). His pointed comment towards his spouse uncovers his self-conceived dominance in the relationship, and the force he uses to rid himself of any snow shows how hard Gabriel works to appear sophisticated and free of the troubles of humanity. This is the first instance that Gabriel comes into contact with the symbolic snow, and the most pertinent, for his hurry to shed the snow that unifies the party guests, directly detaches him from the rest of the group and from the flaw that befalls them all. Later again galoshes are the subject of conversation when Gretta, Gabriel’s wife, makes mention of her husband’s demand that she wear galoshes in the snow. She jokes, “Tonight even he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn’t. The next thing you know he’ll be buying me a diving suit” (2499). Not only does this exemplify the extremes he will go through to protect his wife and himself from the snow, but the mention of the diving suit relates to the snow in the form of water; Gabriel is petrified of snow in any form. Again, this discourse shows the distinct differences between him and his wife, which is furthered when Gabriel jokes that Gretta would walk home in the snow if he would let her. Gretta immerses herself in true humility, in this case the snow. This serves as ironic juxtaposition to the superficial and arrogant world of her husband. The entrance of the couple immediately sets Gabriel apart from the guests, due to his reaction towards the unifying snow.
Adding to his arrogant entrance, Gabriel’s superior feeling is further unfurled when he nervously rehearses the speech he will give at dinner, deciding that the subject matter is “above the heads” (2498) of the guests. He toys with speaking of something on their level and less intellectual by his standards. Again he feels no unity with, in his estimation, the lower class guests who possess an abundance of faults. Like Gabriel’s reaction towards the snow upon his arrival, his attitude towards the guests reveals he does not wish to share a unity with his fellow man, and he disguises any signs of a weak nature.
Furthering his detachment is a surprising confrontation with his dance partner, Miss Ivors, which separates Gabriel even more from the snowy blanket of commonness and imperfections that envelopes the other guests. Twice Miss Ivors confronts Gabriel: about writing for a paper that represents the opposition; as well as asking him to vacation near his wife’s hometown in Northern Ireland. His angry reply to both instances is curt, especially to the vacation offer, “O, to tell you the truth, retorted Gabriel suddenly, I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!” (2504). This outburst, incited by Miss Ivors’ offer, breaks any remaining unity that Gabriel has with the party guests. During the dialogue, Miss Ivors is described in the following manner, “Miss Ivors promptly took his hand in a warm grasp”(2498) and “Miss Ivors said warmly”(2499). What little human nature and unity with fellow men Gabriel had left, Miss Ivors’ warmth melted away, like it was snow. Miss Ivor’s ability to melt the unifying snow is made clear through her political obsession. This breaks her unity with the group and sets her up to further Gabriel’s fleeting ties to his peers. Miss Ivors’ character and Gabriel’s reactions towards her serve as tools that are used to completely isolate Gabriel from the snow and what it represents.
Midway through the party, Gabriel’s superficial outlook begins to thaw. Gabriel, as a human being, lacks the warmth that comes from the friction of ordinary humanity. He is a cold person who is perhaps afraid that being covered by snow will indeed freeze him. Yet a transformation begins when he finds himself reflecting upon life as he stares out the window and the pure omnipresent snow draws his attention, as is seen when, “Gabriel’s warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk alone, first along by the river and through the park… how much more pleasant it would be than here at the dinner table” (2505-2506). Gabriel is drawn to the snow and his yearning to leave the table and walk through it is the first sign that he wishes to cast aside his condescending demeanor and find the meaning in his life, buried under the ice. Gabriel feels no emotional connection with anyone from the party, and here he seems ready to drop his haughty facade; the flaws of humanity seem more appealing.
When finally exposed to the snow again he is overcome with an awareness that is unmistakably human. For example, during their walk home from the party, Gabriel is overcome by the beauty in his wife and feels a love that he has not seen since their matrimony; it is a sentiment that is strange and new to him. Though physically brisk, walking in the snow melts the protective layers Gabriel has built up. Gabriel discovers that he must open his inner self and let out the friction of his true struggles. It is only now that Gabriel is vulnerable to human emotion. At the hotel, Gretta reveals a secret that prevents her from reciprocating her husband’s newfound love. To some, this scandalous information may seem to have a reverting affect on Gabriel’s self-revelations, yet despite the news, his brand new consciousness permits him to feel more alive than he ever was when he was hidden amongst superficiality. Greta’s saddening story allows him to feel real human pain, and for the first time he puts up no guard against the agony of humanity and he feels sincere humility. The truth and reality behind Greta’s confession only helps to immerse him in the snowfall of compassion. He falls asleep at peace with the snow that has fallen over his universe, fully uniting him with humanity: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead”(2524). Gabriel undergoes an epiphany that the idiosyncrasies of human nature are unavoidable, and by immersing himself in the snow, he shares a unity that makes him feel alive.
Joyce defines modest aspects of humanity through the vulnerable forms of snowfall, and unites mankind with the snow’s omnipotence. It is the snow that Gabriel initially shuns, and it is the snow that finally opens Gabriel to the idea of humanness. Joyce’s purposefully chaotic writing style truly mirrors the muddled emotions of Gabriel, before he is swallowed by the blizzard of humility and human imperfection.
No Woman’s Land: Misogyny in Ireland
In the short story “The Dead,” James Joyce displays his character Gabriel as pretentious and misogynistic through emphasizing his wealth, education, and presumed superiority to the women in his society. Gabriel, who requires constant reassurance from women to feel validated, uses his intellect and money to remain superior to the various female characters. Joyce juxtaposes Gabriel’s character to many women to emphasize his superiority complex by using dominant female characters who continuously humiliate him, causing Gabriel to over-use his arrogant tendencies. Thus, Joyce critiques the way in which men traditionally dominate women in society by de-familiarizing submissive women and replacing them with these dominant and outspoken women with whom Gabriel must interact. Joyce also created this character to force his readers to anticipate the inevitability of tragedy as foreshadowed by Shakespeare references, and by Gabriel’s wife Gretta for the ultimate revenge; the death of love.
Throughout the story, there are many moments when Gabriel humiliates women. This is one obvious way Joyce that chose to enhance his critique of the typical way men treated women in the early 20th century. Joyce defamiliarizes the typical submissive women and replaces them with outspoken and independent female characters that accomplish to embarrass Gabriel continuously which is easily noticed. One of the best examples for this is when Gabriel is entering the party and is assisted by a young girl, Lily, in the pantry; he asks if she would be married soon and she responds: “The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you” (2284). Lily quickly clarified that she had no intentions of getting married, and was not polite about it as a typical lady should have been. Gabriel’s discomfort confirms his requirement for control of the situation. “Gabriel coloured as if he felt he has made a mistake, and without looking at her, kicked off his galoshes” (2284) Joyce cleverly added, “without looking at her” (2284) because it demonstrates his inability to cope with dominant responses from females. If Gabriel had instead chuckled and agreed with her, it would transform the text completely.
Joyce also created Gabriel as a misogynist to highlight the astounding male population in Ireland at his time that was just like him, and the growing feminist population fighting for equal rights (Catherine Phil MacCarthy, 2015). After Gabriel’s embarrassment, he attempted to gain control over the situation by giving Lily “Christmas Money,” which displays how he uses wealth to control women. After he gave her money, he left immediately to escape the situation, but the effects of her honesty lingered. We see how Gabriel’s character is shaken by this even after removing himself from her presence, “He was still discomposed by the girl’s bitter and sudden retort” (2285). Gabriel’s response clarifies how abnormal it is for women in his day to be so forthright in her speech. Joyce’s critique of this situation is clear when you analyze the context; he wants Gabriel’s sexist views to be enhanced and corrected. Joyce exposes Gabriel’s fragile superiority complex immediately to allow the reader an introduction to the type of misogyny within the story and how it will be dealt with throughout the text.
Gabriel’s education is also a justification, in his mind, for his superiority, and Joyce juxtaposed his character to a female who experienced the same education as Gabriel to debunk his views further. Gabriel had simplified his speech because he believed his “Superior education” (2285) would cause him to look ridiculous because nobody could be as intelligent as him. Immediately regretting his “Intelligent” speech, Joyce parodies Gabriel’s reaction by emphasizing that it would be a failure. Gabriel’s character assumes that everyone around him is less intelligent and even worse, that he is too intelligent. Joyce included this to highlight the arrogant personality Gabriel possessed in order to create a situation to diffuse it. It was extremely important to foreshadow this “superior intelligence” reflection for his conversation with Mrs. Ivors. Mrs. Ivors has similar education and career life as Gabriel, therefore making a female equal to Gabriel; how uncomfortable. Mrs. Ivors, another forward female character like Lily, immediately embarrasses Gabriel stating, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” (2290) because he is a writer for the Daily Express a West-Briton paper during a time in which Ireland was becoming independent from Britain. Gabriel obviously disturbed and offended retorts, “Why should I be ashamed of myself? Asked Gabriel, blinking his eyes trying to smile.” (2290) it is evident that through blinking and trying to smile he hides his discomfort of being in the presence of yet another frank spoken woman. This ameliorates the way in which Gabriel cannot deal with confrontation from women, a statement created by Joyce to stress the changes that needed to be made in society. Joyce wants to contrast this fragile yet sexist man by juxtaposing him to these women, thus critiquing the way men cannot cooperate with women.
Through Gabriel’s perspective, we are given a personal look at the misogynists thought processes, so any man reading this and could relate to such a character would be forced to see how ignorant their attitude is. Later we see Gabriel’s ego could only be reconciled through Mrs. Ivors’s disinterest in power. Immediately after she explains herself, “Gabriel felt more at ease” (2290) which further justifies Joyce’s goal to repurpose a woman’s place in society by emphasizing Gabriel’s constant need for control. Gabriel is unable to cope with assertive women which we see through his uncomfortable nature whilst talking to women, which reminds us how fragile a sexist man’s ego actually is. Joyce created this fragile character to emphasize the ridiculous attributes of the “modern Irish man” in order to enhance his goal to redefine the patriarchal society, as well as enhance dominant women to portray that it is valid for women to have control. Gabriel is seen to love his wife very much, and expresses his emotions following the party. However, he idealizes Gretta due to her pleasing feminine aesthetic and inferior education, not because of her as a person but rather as an ideal asset to him. This can be seen in the text after leaving the party, “she was walking on before him so lightly and so erect” (2305) and “She seemed to him so frail that he longed to defend her” (2305) Joyce’s diction for Gabriel’s thoughts highlight the typical feminine beauty that is so appealing: light, well postured, and frail.
While Gabriel’s character is seen to have an epiphany of love and affection for his wife, it is clear that the reason he loves her is that she is inferior. Joyce criticizes here how men only see women as objects, and how beauty cannot define a woman’s purpose in the world. We also see the affection drawn from Gretta’s simplicity: “She called out to the man at the furnace: is the fire hot, sir?” Gabriel is a man with clearly a large ego who considers himself to be exceptionally intelligent as well as superior, therefore having a wife that is submissive and intellectually inferior is ideal for supporting his ego. This memory ameliorates that he loves her because he will always be more intelligent, and finds comfort in her foolishness. To focus more on Joyce’s diction consider the word, “frail” and how he had “longed to defend her”, considerably a noble task in fairy-tales where the frail, young, distressed princess requires a prince to save them. This language encourages romanticizing Gretta through inferior vocabulary, thus only a man could help her. This hints at the previously mentioned Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” reference made in the story earlier where Gabriel notices a painting of the balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet” (2289). Joyce chose this image to foreshadow not only the relationship between Gabriel and Gretta, but also the tragic ending of “death” for conclusion. Shakespeare is known for tragedies and misogynistic love stories (Ophelia in “Hamlet”, Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”, Desdemona in “Othello”) there is an obvious theme of submissive female lovers for their masculine heroes throughout his work. Joyce chose to portray this classic Shakespearean dynamic for the emphasis of foreshadowing events and the inevitable failure with relationships based on this behavior, however he created a mundane and relatable story for the people of Ireland. Joyce successfully captures the modern misogynist and portrays him in a story emphasizing masculinity and power to criticize Ireland’s patriarchal society through comparison and foreshadowing. James Joyce portrayed his character Gabriel as a misogynist and pretentious scholar and did so to enhance the modern Irish patriarchal society. Though the story follows a party, you may notice it is not the party we must focus on but rather the people, mainly women, Gabriel interacts with.
Throughout “The Dead,” Joyce juxtaposes Gabriel against powerful and unapologetic women to highlight the incorrect behaviors of Gabriel, and demonstrated what men like Gabriel deserve; the death of love. Gabriel is seen to humiliate women, use education as superiority, and view women as objects. Joyce uses foreshadowing, juxtaposition and diction to highlight these behaviors in order to critique them. Through his fiction, James Joyce subtly raised awareness of early 20th century sexism in order to promote a society in which the sexes are equal, confronting a dilemma we still face to this day.
Joyce, James. “The Dead” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume F: The Twentieth Century and After, edited by Jahan Ramazani and Jon Stallworthy, 9th ed., Norton, 2012, pp. 2282-2311. MacCarthy, Catherine Phil. “A History of Irish Feminism: Past, Present and Future.” The Irish Times. N.p., 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Eating disorder – the deadliest mental illness
We live in an imagination conscious culture, which urges all of us to improve our appearance. The recent and recurrent debate concerning the unhealthy, stick thin models used in the fashion industry is a perfect example of how strongly entrenched our notion of thinness equals happiness has become. However, many of us would benefit from eating a bit less and exercising more in order to improve our health and fitness, simply watching you eat is not an eating disorder.
However, eating disorders are potentially life- threatening illnesses which are formed by irregular eating habits, severe stress, or body weight and shape. As a general characterization, individuals with eating disorders tend to have difficulty accepting and feeling good about themselves. Eating disturbances can include very less or large amount of food intake which can damage a well-being.
Although these conditions are treatable, the symptoms and consequences can be detrimental and deadly if not looked after. Doctors, therapists and nutritionist treat eating disorders. Eating disorders commonly exist with other conditions, such as: Anxiety disorders, substance abuse or depression, hormone change, poor self-esteem, negative body image, peer pressure, nutrients deficiency, or sports related. Although, the three most common eating disorders are: Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa and Binge eating disorder.
Firstly anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which is an obsessive fear of gaining weight and refusing to keep/ maintain a healthy body and a body image. This is clearly seen that the underweights think they’ve consumed way to much food and damaged the look of their body shape and weight which leads to many other health damages such as: such as brain damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss, heart difficulties, and infertility. The risk of death is highest in a person with this disease.
Secondly, bulimia nervosa is another eating disorder is characterized by repeated binge eating followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives or diuretics. This is the fear of weight gaining and feeling unhappy with body and weight size. The binge-eating and purging cycle is typically done in secret, creating feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Bulimia can have injuring effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, and heart difficulties resulting from an electrolyte imbalance.
Thirdly, binge is another common eating disorder which is losing frequent control over eating. Binge is totally different from bulimia nervosa; however episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. This is why many people suffer from Binge, may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. They struggle with this disorder as it may also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge which could influence the further progression of the eating disorder.
These are the most common signs and symptoms of eating disorders:
- Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight
- Constant weight fluctuations
- Obsession with calories and fat contents of food
- Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food
- Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking
- Depression or lethargic stage
- Avoidance of social functions, family, and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
- Switching between periods of overeating and fasting.
Forming Cliques in the Film Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead celebration traces its roots to 2,500 to 3,000 years ago to a tradition from pre-Colombian culture (Brandes, 1998). It is also known as Dia de los Muertos, which is Day of the Dead in Spanish. It was dedicated to the Lady of the Dead, known as La Calaveras Catrina. This festival is also a way for family members to honor the dead and is celebrated throughout a period of three days with each having their own name. October 31st is called All Eves’ Day, November 1st is called All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd is called All Souls’ Day (Brandes, 1998). Each date has a major significance and the reasoning to why they celebrate it on that day. For example, October 31st is when it is believed that deceased children will come back to Earth and visit family members. November 1st is when deceased adults will come back to Earth and November 2nd is when the family members pilgrim to the deceased’s grave and adorn it with traditional and symbolic food. The food includes bread, known as pan de muerto, sugar skulls, known as calaveras de azucar, candied pumpkin, known as calabaza en dulce, tamales, and many other favorite foods of the deceased (Republic, 2016). Instead of mourning for the death of the loved ones, the Day of the Dead festival are for families to celebrate and welcome the deceased back to Earth.
There are many reasons to why the Day of the Dead festival began spreading worldwide. Some of the reasons include colonization of other countries and the immigration of the indigenous people to other countries and practicing it. In addition, the Day of the Dead is celebrated with a humorous attitude rather than a somber atmosphere because the family members celebrates the life of the deceased (Brandes, 1998). Furthermore, the festival is used to honor the dead by welcoming them back to Earth with gifts and their favorite foods. Those who celebrate this festival believe that the three dates are when deceased family members and loved ones will return back to earth for one day to spend it with their loved ones (Brandes, 1998). There is also an altar decorated with food, sugar skulls, and many other items that are meaningful to the person. However, there are differences to how each culture celebrates their version of the Day of the Dead. For the Patzcuaro, the godparents of the deceased child would set an altar at the parent’s house and decorate it rather than the parents (Carrasco, 2006). They would leave pan de muerto, a rosary, candles, a cross, fruits, and candy. Furthermore, there are cultures where children would dress up in costumes, similar to Halloween, and ask people for money or candy (Carrasco, 2006). They believe that giving items away will bring them good luck and fortune.
Some of the symbolic uses of food for the Day of the Dead celebration includes bread, known as pan de muertos, sugar skulls, known as calaveras de azucar, candied pumpkin, known as calabaza en dulce, and tamales. Pan de muerto is one of the most essential foods connected to the festival (Brandes, 1998). It is sweet bread that is round and sprinkled with either sesame seeds or sugar. It has a circle on top with sticks running down the edges. The sticks represents bones and there are usually four to eight sticks per bread. The bones represent the circle of life and is usually sprinkled with some type of topping. In addition, bread may also have a symbolic and religious meaning because bread represents the body of Christ (Johnston & Winter, 2000). Furthermore, it is said the pan de muerto signifies the dead. It is eaten on Dais de Muerto either at the gravesite or at the altar of the deceased. When the baker is making pan de muerto, it is a tradition that he or she will wear decorated bands on the wrist. It is believed that the decorated bands will protect the baker from burns from the oven or stove (Johnston & Winter, 2000). There are many variations to this pan de muerto due to modern world immigration and globalization. Many people input their own recipes and style with the existing recipes to create their own special type of pan de muerto.
Sugar skulls, also known as calaveras de azucar, symbolize life and death. These sugar skulls are exhibited on walls called tzompantli (Brandes, 1998). Many families do not eat these skulls but rather leave them on the altar as an offering to the deceased. However, some families may make edible ones using chocolate and decorate it with candy. A maker will spend around four to six months per year preparing these skulls and are usually focused on aesthetics rather than edibility. The decorations on the skulls include feathers, foil, beads, and occasionally sombreros. Furthermore, some of these sugar skulls are actually made with clay. They are often colorful and very aesthetics with beads representing their eyes. These skulls are created for children or as offerings as a sign of respect for the dead. The family will write the deceased’s name on the temple with icing and place it on the altar or gravesite. There are now many variations to sugar skulls due to immigration and globalization because many cultures incorporate the design of sugar skulls. As the Day of the Dead celebration comes closer, there are many blankets, lottery ticket scratchers, cups, bowls, and other items with a picture of the sugar skull.
Candied pumpkin, also known as calabaza en dulce and tamales are also very common food that has symbolic meaning for the Day of the Dead festival. Families make hundreds of tamales at once and are very labor intensive. It is usually made with the entire family together so they work together and spend quality time together. Candied pumpkin is a popular dish with the festival and is cooked until it is soft and jellified. Families then add their own personal favorite toppings on the candied pumpkin such as cinnamon or sugar.
There are many changes for the Day of the Dead celebration due to immigration and globalization. Many cultures celebrate and honor their dead, similar to the Day of the Dead festival. Each culture are different but practice similar activities. For example, the Chinese celebrate Qingming festival and the Koreans celebrate the Chuseok festival (Carrasco, 2006). However, like stated before, each individual culture is different but practice similar activities. For the Korean’s Chuseok festival, they have a feast to celebrate a good harvest and honor their dead, similar to the Mexican’s Day of the Dead festival. Furthermore, in Europe, the Day of the Dead coincides with the All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. In Latin America, the families keep the skull of the deceased and adorn it with flowers and pray to them for protection (Carrasco, 2006). The United States is unique to the Day of the Dead festival, especially when immigrants migrate to the United States and they bring their culture and practices with them. The day of the dead festival is a national holiday in Mexico but it is not in the United States. Instead, Mexican communities come together and celebrate it. This brings new culture into the United States and allow other cultures to experience it and may even take parts back and implement it to their own cultures.
The Mexican Day of the Dead festival honors and celebrates the deceased family members and loved ones. It is a three day festival and is believed that the deceased children comes back to Earth the first day and deceased adults come back on the second day. The third day is when the family decorate the deceased’s gravesite or altar with pan de muerto, sugar skulls, and other favorite dishes. There are many cultures that are similar to the Day of the Dead festival that honors the deceased, but they are each unique and specific to their own culture and traditions.
The Dead: Gabriel’s narcissism
The Dead starts off with silent night full of flurries. But while outside is blanketed in snow, indoors, a party is taking place. While this party is an annual event, it has it’s own routine that is followed. However, the only things that has changed this particular time around are the main characters, Gabriel and his wife Gretta and the events that unfold at the party play a major role in the interactions between this married couple. The party has a lot of drinking and dancing, some old friends catching up and making small talk. all of the events of the party lead to the explosive ending, where Gretta tearfully reveals at their hotel that she has been thinking about a former lover ever since hearing a familiar song at the party, leaving Gabriel feeling aghast as he did not notice his wife’s emotional state, following with other mixes of emotions. Gabriel did not realize that his wife had been entranced with a memory of a former lover ever since she had heard that song in the drawing room at the party. Gabriel is too narcissistic to realize that his wife is in a state of emotional distress.
There are many reasons to support that Gabriel is in a state of narcissism. The first shows in his interaction with the housemaid, Lilly. Upon arrival, she takes his coat and they make a bit of small talk. All seems well until Gabriel asks if Lilly is of age to be married, and Lilly snaps back that men only want “what they can get out of you” (Joyce, p. 2) Instead of trying to make amends to the situation by talking to Lilly, Gabriel awkwardly hands her a holiday tip, hoping that will smooth things over. It doesn’t quite do the trick, but he exits the conversation anyway and enters the party to begin dancing. After the encounter with Lilly, he thinks a quite a bit about their conversation, and how “his whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure” (Joyce, p.2). In this scene, Gabriel has an internal monologue going, where he recognizes that the conversation did not go well, or there was at least some sort of misunderstanding on some level. There is the fact that he hoped a monetary compensation would help smooth over his obvious clumsiness in the conversation. The ability that he is so easily and readily able to do that shows a display of class and wealth, which displays his ego, a trait of narcissism. However, instead of going back to Lilly to make amends, he goes on with the party as per usual.
But this is not to say that Gabriel is all too wrapped up in his internal thoughts or throwing around his wealth. He is aware of what is happening around him. For example, after the interaction with Lilly and his thoughts about how horribly the conversation went, he went on to have a conversation with his wife. This conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Freddy Malins, a party guest who always seems to arrive drunk. Gabriel saw to it that Freddy sobers up enough to partake in the evening’s festivities. That includes getting him to a separate room in the house so he doesn’t make a scene where everyone is dancing along. This action isn’t one of someone who is self-absorbed or obsessed with appearances. This is an act of kindness, and while some may not want anything to do with someone who is always drunk, Gabriel goes out of his way to ensure the party goes smoothly. And although that may be true that Gabriel did see to it that Freddy was not a nucience to any of the party attendees, he didn’t stay with him the entire time, but instead enlisted the help of Mr. Browne, another party goer, and left Freddy with him. After leaving Freddy with Mr. Browne, Gabriel went back to the party and did not return to Mr. Browne or Freddy.
While an external act of kindness is exempt from Gabriel’s consistent inner monologue, other things are not. For example, at the end of the party, Gretta and Gabriel decide to take a cab rather then walk to their hotel. Before this, however, Gretta is seemingly mesmerized by a song being sung in the drawing room. Even after the song ends, she is still distracted. Throughout the entire cab ride to Dublin, she is silent and thoughtful, lost in the memory of her former lover and how he died waiting in the cold for her. Gabriel notices that his wife is preoccupied, perhaps even emotionally distressed, but does not attempt to talk to her. That is because like his wife, he too, is lost in his own world. Similar to hers, there are themes of love, but with undertones of desires for his wife. Gabriel’s thoughts are shown explicitly in a quote that is written when they arrive at the hotel, where Gabriel feels that “they had escaped their lives and duties, escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts into a new adventure” (Joyce 18). George L. Lucente dissects this quote in his article Encounters and Subtexts in ‘The Dead’: A Note on Joyce’s Narrative Technique. Lucente acklonwegdes that Gabriel longs for an escape and he also brings up that Gabriel notices Gretta’s strange mood and the events that unfold afterwards. But Lucente says that instead of thinking about his wife and how this memory must be effecting her, Gabriel’s thoughts align the prospect of “losing”. In this prospect, Gabriel is not showing concern for Gretta who has just recounted a sordid tale of her past boyfriend and has fallen asleep crying, but absorbed in his thoughts about winning and losing control over her.
Additionally, there is there scene in the bedroom of the hotel, where Gretta is telling the story of her former lover to Gabriel. Brian Cosgrove described and dissected Gabriel’s reaction in his article Male Sexuality and Female Rejection: Persistent irony in Joyce’s ‘The Dead’. When Gabriel first realizes that Gretta is in distress, he asks her what is wrong, and she bursts into tears, sayiong the song reminded her of someone important, a past lover. This discovery that Gretta has had a past lover has Gabriel reeling, but also makes him feel self-conscious. Then Gretta begins to recount the tale of how Michael Furey died for her. Cosgrove does state this. He also states that there is a way that Gabriel can pull himself out of this state of inwardness. But that opportunity quickly disappears when Gretta goes into more details about Michael and the history they have. And even when listening to Gretta tell her story, a key part of her past and who she is, Cosgrove describes how Gabriel sees himself in the mirror and observes himself as someone ridiculous (p.7).
And perhaps that is what led to the self-consciousness during the Gabriel’s speech at the party. After the conversation with Lilly, and helping Freddy Malins, Gabriel finds himself dancing with Miss Ivors, a colleague of his. While dancing, she presses him about taking a trip, but he declines saying that he has already planned a cycling trip. During this conversation, she uncovered his pen name as a writer for a newspaper, and accused him of disliking his own country for not wanting to take the trip and planning a cycling trip instead. After his dance with Miss Ivors, a song is sung by Julia, one of the three hostesses, the other two being Gabriel’s aunts. Everyone eats, and Gabriel delivers a speech that garners a round of applause and a toast to three hostesses.
Prior to the speech, Gabriel already had an encounter with Lily that would make him more self-conscious then he already is. In addition to that, he also had Miss Ivors, a friend and colleague, just discover he is a ghost writer and press him about what she deemed lack of interest in his country. But this speech, an outward action, could also free himself from the lonely monologue Gabriel can’t seem to part from, by giving him confidence, by being involved with the party attendees listening in on his speech. Just as Cosgrove mentioned how being with his wife would distract Gabriel from his self-consciousness. And on the outside, it seemed as though Gabriel could be a little less involved in himself, as he proclaimed he wouldn’t dwell on the past but move forward ( Joyce 13). The speech’s content consists of future generations, with an appreciation for events that have happened in the past. It doesn’t sound like someone who is self-conscious or narcissistic, yet Gabriel reverts right back to thinking singularly in the following scenes.
The following scene at the hotel, where Gretta tells Gabriel what has been on her mind, shows Gabriel’s narcissism the most. During the telling of the story, Gabriel gets angry when he realizes that he in fact is not Gretta’s first love, and that she had loved before him. Instead of moving to comfort his wife, Gabriel has feelings of anger, then starts to compare himself to Micheal Furey, and dimishes his own self-image (Joyce 20). And to credit Gabriel, he did notice that his wife was in a different emotional state, from the time she heard the song at the party all the way back to the hotel. But he only used it to his own advantage, to fuel his own imagination. In his own imagination, he created a place where both he and his wife could both escape. While Gabriel uses his thoughts for processing, he also uses it in this instance as an escape from reality. In this escape, Gabriel controls everything as these are all thoughts in his mind. It’s a fantasy world, and escape, which he has total control over and input from anyone or anything else doesn’t matter.
In the very last scene where Gretta is asleep, and Gabriel is still awake, he is thinking of Michael Furey and how is he is laying underneath the snow buried in a grave. But then his thoughts once again turn inwards to himself, and he starts dissecting his love with Gretta. Here he’s not comparing himself to Michael, but comparing the feeling of love he felt for his wife earlier, To the feeling of love Gretta must have felt for her former lover (Joyce 22). Gabriel is still showing signs of self-consciousness and narcissism, up until the last page, the only difference is that it’s on a deeper level.
Gabriel almost seems to have a selective attention when it concerns things happening around him. One example is when he and his wife is travelling to their hotel from the party in their cab. He did notice that his wife’s demeanor changed. However, he failed to notice anything beyond that. He didn’t notice that she was in distress because he too wrapped up in his desire for his wife. Not only that, but he created an escape from the real world, an escape from reality, one where he and his wife can escape. And while that escape that he created does include his wife, he didn’t ask for her input. He also based his imaginative escape from what appeared to be surface characteristics from a glance from his wife. When Gabriel first saw that she was so lost in thought, he became fascinated by his with his wife’s change of mood, then thought back to their love of when they first met. He then continued from there with his inner monologue.
When Gretta first begins to show signs of being bothered, and it appears to Gabriel that Gretta doesn’t follow with what he has planned, one of Gabriel’s first emotions are anger. He is angry, because he, in that moment realizes that he lost control of the situation, and it is going a completely different route then he wanted to. And that made Gabriel angry. The fact that Gabriel lost control of the outcome of the situation and was angry means that he needs that to feed his self-esteem. Not to mention, it’s more than a little narcissistic to be angry that your partner won’t align to what you have planned in your mind.
Gabriel has showned many signs of narcissim and self consciousness and even fewer signs of modesty, and if too wrapped up in these two traits to notice that his wife is in emtional dsitress. He showcases this in many ways during the party, and reaches its height afterwards, at the hotel with his wife.
Gabriel Conroy Characteristic
In the short story, The Dead from the novel Dubliners by James Joyce, readers are led through a bustling, yet monotonous, dinner party by the protagonist Gabriel Conroy, an intelligent, impersonal, “cold-air” introvert who is constantly found present in his own thoughts, rather than mentally present in the majority of situations throughout the plot. In the critical essay, also titled The Dead, Eric Rapp explores the state of Gabriel’s “paralysis” stating “[t]hroughout most of the story it is clear the Gabriel is trapped in his own self-consciousness” (Rapp, 2002). Through Gabriel’s many blunders—specifically in regards to his encounters with antagonists and his mental responses to such conflict—readers are able to understand and observe Gabriel “faintly-falling” as well as the innate need for his upcoming epiphany that is to come, made possible only through James Joyce’s ingenious usage of these two literary devices.
The purpose of antagonists is to incite or bring about conflict within a plot line in order for the story to gain momentum. In doing so, antagonists hold the ability to reveal certain characteristics of the protagonist through creating conflict and the protagonist’s methods in coping with this conflict, which readers may otherwise not be able to see. In the case of Gabriel Conroy, the main protagonist in the book Dubliners, Mrs. Molly Ivors, an antagonist, creates conflict in order to reveal Gabriel’s over-thinking nature.
In Dubliners: The Dead, Gabriel encounters Mrs. Ivors, an Irish nationalist and close colleague of Gabriel, at his aunts’ Christmas party where she playfully addresses her discovery of Gabriel’s writing for a newspaper with political-leanings which promote the ideals and nuances of British thinking. She states she is ashamed of him—he states he isn’t. Finally, the teasing drives Gabriel to the point of loudly and publicly stating that he is tired of his homeland after she asks him why he would rather visit other countries than travel around Ireland:
“‘O, to tell you the truth,’ retorted Gabriel suddenly, ‘I’m sick of my own country, sick of it…’” (Joyce 129) Riddled with embarrassment and agitation, Gabriel is quiet when Molly asks for his reasons why, before playfully whispering in his ear, “West Briton!”
Throughout the story afterward, he constantly ponders on what Molly had said: “Was she sincere? Had she really any life of her own behind all her propagandism? There had never been any ill-feeling between them until that night. It unnerved him to think that she would be at the supper-table, looking up at him while he spoke with her critical quizzing eyes. Perhaps she would not be sorry to see him fail in his speech” (Joyce 131).
Molly’s playfulness is taken out of proportion to then drive Gabriel into assuming she might be condescendingly looking down on him. These thoughts continue to “warm-flood” his mind throughout the remainder of the story, even after Molly leaves the dinner party. Through Gabriel’s excessive, recurring thoughts and worries stemming from his interaction with Molly, readers understand his nature of pondering and over-analyzing every situation, especially when the situation may not be in his favor.
Going hand-in-hand with the role of the antagonist is the omniscient narrator—specifically, third-person limited. With the presence of this omniscient narrator, readers are given the ability to further delve into the inner thoughts, motives, and characteristics of the story’s protagonist. In the case of Gabriel Conroy, readers are able to observe his true thoughts and motives in order to properly understand his over-thinking, over-analyzing character.
When faced with conflict, Gabriel often retreats into his mind: a coping mechanism in which he is able to hide, ponder situations, and analyze minute details in order to ascertain what outside characters may think of him, or rather, what outside characters are thinking altogether. In the scene following his Aunts’ dinner party, Gabriel looks upon his wife, Gretta, as she stands at the top of the staircase, looking onwardly in a mysterious, captivating manner toward the direction in which she hears music playing. Struck with sudden infatuation of this “distant-music” image of his wife, he aims to seduce her into the same state of infatuation that she has unintentionally cast him in. When his attempts fail, he “burning-redly” questions himself on what it is that she appears to be preoccupied with:
“He was trembling now with annoyance. Why did she seem so abstracted? He did not know how he could begin. Was she annoyed, too, about something? If she would only turn to him or come to him of her own accord! To take her as she was would be brutal. No, he must see some ardour in her eyes first. He longed to be master of her strange mood” (Joyce 148).
Rather than asking Gretta what it is that might be wrong, Gabriel retreats back into his mind in order to ask himself. Distraught, annoyed and upset that his message is not being received, he seeks answers only through analysis of details he observes: a prime example of Gabriel’s over-analytical tendencies. Through the voice of the omniscient narrator following his train-of-thought when faced with this dilemma, readers are able to understand his over-thinking nature in a way that would otherwise be impossible.