The dead analysis

Thedead analysis

JamesJoyce’s “The Dead” was the final, lengthiest and most famousDubliner. It mainly focuses on Gabriel Conroy’s self-discovery.Conroy is the protagonist and an overconfident master of ceremony ofa yearly music party that his aged aunts had planned. Although he hadaccepted the role of giving a speech at his aunts’ party, he wasafraid that he was too educated than any of them such that they wouldthink he was deliberately being proud through quoting great authorssuch as Shakespeare and other famous poets. However, a series ofexternal events such as humiliations and assaults gradually killsConroy’s egotism circle. Throughout the story, the authoremphasizes on varied themes of death to portray a dying city,culture, relationships, egoism and history. The story kills the paststereotypes to usher a new era of values in various areas. The themeof death in the story represents the end of mundane, repetitive andrestrictive frustration circles of the leading characters.

Theauthor has given the story a title that suggests death as a way ofemphasizing the lifelessness of the Dublin town. The house where theJulia and Kate Morkan are holding a party is located in a desolatelocation. Some of the guests such as Gabriel Conroy have arranged foraccomodation in a local hotel because they could not manage to driveat night when it was snowing. In fact, the weather in the town was socold and unfriendly such that Gabriel’s aunts ask Gretta (Gabriel’swife) if she had perished alive in the bad weather of the Usher’sIsland. The climate was completely bad for sustaining human life.“Both of them kissed Gabriel`s wife, said she must be perishedalive, and asked was Gabriel with her (Joyce 1).” The metaphorportrays the island’s weather as extremely harsh to the extent ofkilling an individual if he or she does not take the necessaryprecautions.

Ina discussion between Gabriel and Lily in the Pantry house, Gabrielasks her is she is expecting to hold a wedding soon since she has nowcompleted school. However, she answers in an angry and disappointedvoice, “–The men that are now is only all palaver and what theycan get out of you (Joyce2).” The statement indicates that UsherIsland has no worthy men for marrying young and assertive girls suchas Lily because all they can do is hold extensive discussions whileattempting to take advantage of the women’s hard work and property.The pride and assertiveness of Usher Island men are dead thus, girlshave a hard time finding appropriate spouses. The traditionallyresponsible husbands are literally dead. In my opinion, the potentialsuitors in Usher Island are drunkards. For example, Mr. Browne claimsthat he had to drink his whiskey because he had instructions from adoctor to drink moderately The young men eyed him respectfully whilehe took a trial sip. –God help me, he said, smiling, it`s thedoctor`s order (Joyce 4).” Similarly, Freddy is described as anever-drunk person. He is so irresponsible that Aunt Kate had to sendGabriel to ensure that he was not excessively drunk to the extent ofcausing drama at the party (Joyce 5). From the treatment FreddyMalins receives at the party, Gabriel and Aunt Kate knew that he wasan extreme drunkard. In fact, Kate Morkan asserts that his mother hadmade him swore that he would stop abusing alcohol, “–Now, isn`t hea terrible fellow! she said. And his poor mother made him take thepledge on New Year`s Eve (Joyce 5).” Probably, Lily refrains fromdating men from Usher Island because they are idle, lazy anddrunkards. They have many worthless flirting stories, but their mainaim is sleeping with a girl and then never get a serious commitment.

“Eversince Kate and Julia, after the death of their brother Pat, had leftthe house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane, their only niece, tolive with them in the dark, gaunt house on Usher`s Island, the upperpart of which they had rented from Mr. Fulham, the corn-factor on theground floor (Joyce 1).” This statement alludes to the death ofMorkan Sisters’ brother as a way of illustrating the extended timethat Mary Jane has lived in adoption and with the foster parents.Furthermore, the reference to the death is a unique strategy theauthor used to give readers an idea about Mary Jane’s age. Sinceher father Pat had passed on over thirty years ago, the niece is mostlikely in her thirties as the Morkan sisters adopted her when she wasstill an infant.

TheMorkan’s house cleaner has a name associated with the flower graves- Lily. Her name is symbolic of the humble background, as well asscarce luxury she could receive from her parents. She began workingfor the Morkan sisters immediately after completing school becauseher poor parents could not guarantee her good lifestyle. “Lily, thecaretaker`s daughter, did housemaid`s work for them. Though theirlife was modest, they believed in eating well the best ofeverything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea and thebest-bottled stout (Joyce 1).” The purpose of using a name thatsymbolizes bereavement and despondency are showing that people withseemingly bleak future can overcome the challenge through hard work.Lily is determined to earn an earnest living without depending on anyman to provide her with basic supplies.

“–I`llengage they did, said Gabriel, but they forget that my wife heretakes three mortal hours to dress herself (Joyce 1).” The deathinsinuated in this statement acts as an emphasis on exaggeratedeffort that Gretta spends in applying makeup and other preparations.Gabriel compares the preparation period immortal because she is notproductive in any way.

Joyceuses the theme of snow throughout the story. Snow enhances the themeof coldness, death, inhumanity, paralysis and isolation. The vulgarweather is so serious that Miss Kate and Julia are worried whetherGabriel and the ever-drunk Freddy could reach the party unscathed.The climate symbolizes death since it could either freeze someone todeath or cause a disease that could lead to the death of anindividual. For instance, Gabriel claims that Gretta caught a seriouscold the previous time they visited Usher Island because they drovethroughout the cold night to their home. “Gretta caught a dreadfulcold (Joyce 3).” In my view, Gabriel had attended several danceparties at His aunts’ place in the company of Gretta. However, theprevious times they had encountered problems when driving back in thewinter cold, such that Gretta had suffered from severe healthconditions associated with extreme cold. The severity of the previouscold made Gabriel caution this time to secure accommodation. Althoughthe yearly dance party was a happy event, Joyce portrays theenvironment where the environment was supposed to occur negatively.“After the death of their brother Pat, had left the house in StoneyBatter and taken Mary Jane, their only niece, to live with them inthe dark, gaunt house on Usher`s Island (Joyce 1).” In my opinion,the Morkan sisters’ house is located in a lonely and hard to accesslocation. Probably, it is described as dark because it has noelectric lighting, or natural lighting is inadequate. I also suspectthat the terrain to the house is unfriendly and full of various risksbecause both Miss Kate and Julia appears worried by Gabriel andMalins’ late arrival. The fear of death is imminent in theirbehaviors such that they were happy when Gabriel announced he wouldnot drive back home at night. On the other hand, they sent Gabriel toconfirm whether Freddy Malins was okay after he arrived at the party.This proves that they feared some form of death or risk could haveharmed Malins thereby, causing his delay.

JamesJoyce’s “The Death” story reminds me of my home place. It is asmall community located on a hilltop. The population is scarcebecause many established people prefer to live elsewhere. The townhas a population of about five hundred people, but only a hundredadults have stable jobs. The administration form is anarchy as themain policymakers are two rival gangs that are ever fighting tocontrol the territory. Alcohol and other forms of drugs abuse arecommon. In fact, gang groups kill each other at broad daylightbecause the police tried fighting the amorphous criminal gangs. Eachtime one is going on with his or her duty, he or she feels theimminent risk of death. If an individual may not be a target, but astray bullet can land on an innocent victim. I witnessed severalpersons who were accidentally injured by stray bullets. On the otherhand, individuals escaping from the gangs occasionally have accidentson the rough terrain while escaping. Virtuous girls are a rarecommodity. Since jobs are limited, several girls opt to engage incommercial sex trade, except a few principled girls that are willingto earn an earnest living like Lily. Similarly, several drunkardssuch as Freddy Malins are very unproductive in the community. Theyare also vulnerable to gang rapes, which may infect them withvenereal diseases. The learned persons such as Gabriel Conroy havehigh egoism that makes them appoint themselves into people’sspokespersons, but unfortunately, they are not capable to representindividual persons’ problems because they do not understand theirproblems.


Joyce,James. TheDead.Claremont, CA: Coyote Canyon Press, 2008. Print.