Gabriel's Epiphany in James Joyce's "The Dead"

Essay by MccaddenSucksUniversity, Bachelor's April 2004

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Lee A. Zito

In James Joyce's "The Dead," through an epiphany the main character, Gabriel, realizes the true relationship between him and his wife, Gretta. The epiphany Gabriel experiences is the direct effect of his wife's confession to having a love before she met him. Not just a love, but a true love named Michael Furey. Before Gabriel had heard this story he continuously looks at his wife thinking about how much he loves her and how much he wishes they could only feel the excitement of their relationship. His emotions and feelings are shattered when he hears Gretta's story of Michael Furey.

At first he feels anger toward her. Anger at the fact that he was not her first love. He is also humiliated to feel as he did before, foolishly in love, when it was quite clear their relationship was not what he thought it was.

He thinks about how she still carries so much fondness for her dead lover and he grows envious that she had found her one true love.

After staring at his wife asleep on the bed, he feels deeply saddened that he will never experience a true love relationship in return from his wife. He wants her to be happy, and he knows she is actually devastated even after all these years of appearing to be content in their boring marriage. He decides then that he will make it up to her. He will be the man she always wanted and needed. Gabriel makes the decision to move to Ireland, the country he detests in the beginning of the story. This is a sacrifice he will make to show his true love to his wife, Gretta. A sacrifice which in no way would have been possible if he had not experienced the epiphany within the story.