Representation Of Irish Culture In The Dead James Joyce

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

“The Dead” by James Joyce, an irish novelist and short story writer, is an urban literature short story written all from memories. The short story showcases the thoughts and actions of a man, Gabriel Conroy, on the one night his wife, Gretta, and Gabriel shows up to a party hosted by his two aunts, Kate and Julia Morkin. In the story, there are plenty of special and particular details which the story is realistic in style, that centers on fascinating events that occur and on delicate of symbolism.

James Joyce was the most projecting writer of English during the beginning of the 20th century. It is said that his skills were up to William Shakespeare level of writing. The story was written in 1904 – 1907 then officially published in 1914 along with a collection of different short stories called “Dubliners”. The collection was written in Ireland, where the author, James Joyce was actually born on February 2, 1882. The dead is actually the final and longest story of the entire collection. The short story is considered one of the most wonderfully completed stories within the English literature. Also, during the time of the story being written by James Joyce, in the time of history, in the 1900’s, The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire occurred. This horrific earthquake that occurred was classified as the most significant earthquakes of history. The natural disaster ruptured about 296 miles of San Andreas at approximately 5:12am that lasted about 45 to 60 seconds and ended up killing about 700 innocent lives.

The short story is spoken in third person by an unnamed character, which also happens in other short story from the collection. A professor named Gabriel Conroy goes to a Christmas holiday party that is thrown and put together by his aunts, Kate and Julia Morkin, where Gabriel dances with a past teacher he had, and he also gives a speech. As the party is getting close to its ending, Gabriel witnesses his wife, Gretta, listening to a song sung by Bartell D’Arcy, which the listening of the song starts to make him focus so hard on the song that the music causes him to feel emotional and dissipated. Then in a hotel room later on, Gabriel becomes really upset to find out that he has misunderstood Gretta’s feelings. A memory of a man named Michael Furey, who was a lover from her past, comes to her mind very harshly. Gabriel then comes to the realization that she has never felt equally adoring about their marriage. The entire short story represents the conclusion of Joyce’s basic and amusing representations of existence.

Although the entire short story provides an extraordinary side of the world of English literature and it also invites it’s audience to really think about how we truly feel about ourselves and others and maybe change our view upon it, just the title of the short story represents a big significance to the story line. The title of the story, ‘The Dead,’ signifies the inner death and the spiritual paralysis of those who escape reality, but they are limited in their visualizations. The title also shows us that the story is a ghost story. Classifying the short story to be about ghosts, just from interpreting the title of the story, that the dead “comes back for happiness of the living”. It can be tied into the death of Michael Furey within the story, who dies for the love of Gretta. Although he never physically comes back as a ghost in the story, he comes back mentally into Gretta’s mind, just thinking over and over about Michael and his death. This eventually causes Gretta to breakdown and cry herself to sleep after she confesses to her current husband about her and Michael’s past loving relationship.

One theme that is discussed through its context within the short story would be mortality. Exploring through this theme, the most obvious example of where mortality is shown, would actually be within the title of the story. Other places in the short story where the theme of mortality would be exposed would be when Gabriel is lying in his bed. While lying in his bed, he begins to think about the passing of Michael Furey. After thinking about Michael, he then begins to think about his Aunt Julia dying, which this all then finally results in him starting to think about his own death. The story that Gabriel conveys concerning the Morkan’s grandfather is also essential as it is within the telling of the story that the author, James Joyce, is actually symbolizing also the theme of paralysis in the short story.

As said before, the theme of paralysis is also show in “The Dead”. The best and most obvious example of this theme would be all within the main character of the story, Gabriel. He is very self-centered, only cares for himself and is completely consumed with the mark he makes on others. He always has to have everything under his own control, if at any time it wasn’t, he would not have any idea how to deal with it. Gabriel has absolutely no clue how to be or deal with people if they were in any kind of different levels of education than he was. Tying in within the theme, he is seen to be paralyzed by his self-consciousness. He’s very uncomfortable when someone disagrees with him with anything and he always runs away from problems instead of facing or solving them. Gabriel is seen to be mentally dead, he incapable to feel any kind of emotions and he’s seen walking around in circles, which is just like old Morkan’s horse. As we see the horse, Johnny, walking in circles around the statue of King William, this repeating action that both the horse and Gabriel performs represents the theme of paralysis.

Another theme shown within the short story would be the theme of failure. The lack of communication between Lily and Gabriel is a major factor to this theme that indicated to the audience that Gabriel ended up with failure to show himself in a positive way to Lily. Another example that shows the theme of failure in the story is actually soon right after, when Gabriel is thinking to himself about the speech he gave. He felt that his entire speech that he gave was a huge mistake and should have never been given at all. Also, another example of when the theme of failure is shown is when Miss Ivors is talking to Gabriel, he completely fails to understand anything what she is trying to say to him. It is not until the theme of failure is shown even more at the end of the story, that Gabriel discovers within himself that it is extremely difficult, almost impossible, to accept there is a possibility of Gretta loving someone before she had any kind of love for him.

The main setting of “The Dead” takes place in the early 20th century in Dublin, Ireland. As noticed, for the setting of the story taking place in Ireland, that if there was any kind of culture included within this story, it is a very big chance that it is connected with the Irish culture. A very obvious source from where any of the Irish culture things would come from would be the characters them self because all of the characters in the story are in fact Irish. The story includes a party where all of the characters are attending, so during the entire party, there being played in the background lots and lots of traditional Irish music, and Irish songs sung sometimes from the people attending the party. Another example of Irish culture being represented within the story is hen Gabriel is asked to speak, he has yet to make a decision on what lines from Robert Browning, an English poet, he want to say, although Browning’s type of writing was very obscure to a lot of people who read his kind of writing. So because Gabriel is extremely undecisive of what he wants to say, instead, he considers saying quotes from Thomas More’s Irish Melodies.

Another example of when any kind of Irish culture is represented within the story is when Mary Jane plays her Academy piece, on the piano during the party. The type of music that Mary plays is a very difficult piece of music that was arranged by the Royal Irish Academy of Music. The piece is not specifically enjoyable or interesting to listen along to, it actually is used to test a musician of their musical skills, but for some reason, Mary Jane deicded to play in public for all of the party members to listen to. Unfortunately Gabriel could not stand it anymore while Mary Jane was playing her unenjoyable piece of music. He enjoys listening to music very much, as if anyone in this world would normally would, but the song Mary was playing for everyone was so unentertaining that he doubted if the song she played had any kind amusement for anyone at the party. In fact, which in my personal opinion would be very rude, everyone at the party began to beg Mary Jane to play any song other than the difficult piece she was currently playing. Even a group of four men, who had just come from the room where the drinks were being served to stand in the doorway where they could her Mary playing her song, had left so quickly to not listen to her. It is very clear that the only person at the party who actually enjoyed the music was Mary Jane herself.

Another example of when any kind of Irish culture is represented within the story is when a character in the short story, Molly Ivors, argues with Gabriel that he is “disrespecting” his own country, Irish culture, and has too much of English culture. Because Molly is such as representative of Irish nationalism, anything that really isn’t “pro-Irish” is not suitable for her. In the short story, Gabriel writes a pro-English publication, and of course since that isn’t enhances the Irish culture, Molly becomes very disagreeing with him. Due to her huge disagreement, she starts to accuse Gabriel of being a “West Briton”, which meant a supporter of the English political control of Ireland. Shortly after of calling Gabriel this, she claims that she was only joking towards Gabriel for others to see her as innocent and not rude like what she was being before. That only goes right into her bringing Gabriel and Gretta as well to join her and her friends on a month-long vacation to the western part of Ireland. Her plan succeeds to constantly insult him again, over and over, repetitively calling him a “west Briton” like what she was doing before. Soon, the tension between the two grows out of control as she constantly fights with Gabriel where she repeatedly accuses of having consumed way too much of the English lifestyle and culture. During the tension starting to rise Molly yells ‘And haven’t you your own land to visit,’ continued Miss Ivors, ‘that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?’, whereas Gabriel responds back with ‘O, to tell the truth,’ retorted Gabriel suddenly, ‘I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!’. It is clearly obvious that the two have a lot going on between them and the hatred for each other is great, as well as Gabriel’s hatred for Ireland.

In conclusion, “The Dead” written by Irish novelist and short story writer, James Joyce, is an urban literature short story written all from past Irish memories. The short story is based off a party that is thrown by the main character’s aunts, Gabriel Conroy, Kate and Julia Morkin, where lots of impactful event occur such as the death of for Gretta’s love, the argument between Gabriel Conroy and Molly Ivors, Mary Jane’s difficulty piece of Irish music effecting almost everyone at the party except for herself, etc. The story, because it was written with all Irish character is packed with Irish culture as well where the author’s audience could maybe learn a thing or two from reading “The Dead”. 


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