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But beyond this proclivity which he shared with others, Joyce had a special reason for writing the story of ‘The Dead’ in 19. It brings a feeling of cold and paralysis to the scene. Someone is playing the piano in an upper room and it has caught her attention. He could not see her face but he could see the terracotta and salmonpink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something.In his own mind he had thoroughly justified his flight from Ireland; but he had not decided the question of where he would fly to. Snow is falling – “newspapers say snow is general all over Ireland”. Gabriel looks up the stairs and sees his wife standing there, in silhouette. Gabriel is suddenly struck by the vision of his wife. Watch, too, how Gabriel – an intellectual, a book-reviewer, turns his wife into an inanimate object – he immediately begins to see her as a work of art – and wishes he could paint her – capture her. Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also.“The Dead” can also be seen (since it is the last story) as the launching pad into the novels.
The west represents rural life, the east is the rush and bustle of Dublin. like no matter what he says she will never accept it. The point was to get the hell OUT so you could have a chance. Gabriel sees himself as continental – he takes pride in that – which is what Miss Ivors senses, and sets about to pierce through that pride) Despite the fact that his wife is actually FROM the “west” of Ireland – they have never gone back to visit Galway together. Gabriel sees his own pomposity, and silliness – and avoids looking at himself in the mirror, for shame. This was in one sense an answer to his university friends who mocked his remark that death is the most beautiful form of life by saying that absence is the highest form of presence. What binds ‘Ivy Day’ to ‘The Dead’ is that in both stories the central agitation derives from a character who never appears, who is dead, absence.
At the time of Joyce’s writing of the story, the Irish Revival was in full swing – and the Irish began to look “west” to see who they really were. She leaves the party early – and says goodbye to the crowd in Irish … Gabriel just has no interest in ‘seeing’ the countryside, and having some Irish Renaissance experience out there. But by the end of the story, what has happened to Gabriel is nothing short of a complete transformation. He realizes that his tenderness and lust towards his wife, through the end of the party – was misguided. He then launches us up – up – into the atmosphere – and Gabriel looks down on all. Joyce wrote Stanislaus that Anatole France had given the idea for both stories.
Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction: Dubliners – by James Joyce – excerpt from the final story in the collection: “The Dead”.
Still from John Huston’s film adaptation of “The Dead“, the snow is general all over Ireland The story never loses its power.
It seemed that the rural folk had been lost in the shuffle, the rural folk still spoke Irish – they were untouched by British oppression, there was something that still survived out there in the west that those in Dublin have lost. Irish language schools started popping up, and people started traveling out to the Aran Islands, and Galway, etc. Synge – the playwright – took Yeats’s advice to “go west, young man” – and lived out on the Aran Islands (wrote a wonderful memoir about it too) – and from that experience of the untouched peasantry of Ireland – began to write his plays that would make his name. He, for the first time, feels his own isolation from his fellow man. In the last 3 or 4 paragraphs of the story, Gabriel – by realizing his own alone-ness, his own failures as a man – joins the human race for the first time. There may be other sources in France’s works, but a possible one is ‘The Procurator of Judaea’.
So people like Yeats and Synge wrote about the west. In it Pontius Pilate reminisces with a friend about the days when he was procurator in Judaea, and describes the events of his time with Roman reason, calm, and elegance.
Bitchy gossipy observations are all well and good, and many a novelist has made use of such things to great success. Sometimes thinking of Ireland it seems to me that I have been unnecessarily harsh.
I have reproduced (in Dubliners at least) none of the attraction of the city for I have never felt at my ease in any city since I left it except in Paris.
And at the very same moment he is acutely aware of his own life, he becomes even more aware of how death approaches – as death approaches us all. His consciousness becomes telescopic – and moves over the snowy Irish landscape – moving ‘westward’ – he sees the fields, he sees the “mutinous Shannon waves” (meaning: west) – he sees the country cemetery where his wife’s lover is buried … And for the first time Gabriel really feels the pain of that. And so, in the truly stunning last paragraph of the story, he floats out west – through the snow – which is “general all over Ireland” – looking down on the landscape – the fields and waves and dales of the west he had always scorned. There is that basic situation of cuckoldry, real or putative, which is to be found throughout.
Gabriel, in his sense of loss in regards to his wife, has – for the first time – become connected to all of mankind. He feels the pain of his wife, lying asleep in bed – tears in his eyes – for the love that she once lost. (Gabriel, in the story, has that, too – instead of vacationing in Ireland, he takes cycling tours through Germany, etc. Which is amazing, later – when Gabriel’s imagination breaks free and begins to float over Ireland – seeing the snow falling on hill, dale, monuments, cemeteries, waves … “The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.” What a sentence. It is as though Gabriel had had this date from the beginning – only he had no awareness of it. There is the special Joycean collation of specific detail raised to rhythmical intensity.