In "The Dead," James Joyce utilizes his character Michael Furey, the deceased lover of Gretta's youth, as an apparent symbol of how the dead have a steadfast and continuous power over the living. The dominant power, which Michael maintains over the protagonist, causes Gabriel to see how much he truly loves his wife. Even though it is made evident to the reader that Gabriel possesses such devotion and adoration for Gretta, Michael diverts Gabriel's confidence in his love, causing Gabriel to come to an understanding that his life is not as he once thought it to be. Through epiphanies, each character is able to see entities in a new light and gain a better understanding for what they have and had.
Michael Furey had an enduring effect on Gretta because of the things he did for her while he was alive. Ironically, she appreciated the things he did for her even more after he died.
When Michael found that Gretta was moving away from him, Michael lost all desire to live. A week before Gretta left, Michael went to her grandmother's house in the pouring cold rain to see her. He stood outside despite the sickness that he knew would come because of his actions, until finally, after a great deal of pleading by Gretta, he returned home. A couple of weeks later, Gretta received the news that Michael Furey had died; he had grown sick and died because he loved Gretta so much. This had a profound impact on Gretta because the one man she had ever loved had given up his life to spend only a few minutes with her. Upon her return to Ireland, she attended a party where she heard a woman sing a song Michael often serenaded her with, "The Lass of Aughrim".