The Varying Faces of Death The meaning of James Joyce's short story The Dead

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The Varying Faces of Death

James Joyce's "The Dead" exhibits the capacity of another's death to dishearten one in his future relations and experiences. This short story also gives voice to the emotions of a husband. This husband's wife's romantic tie to a man who died years ago, forces him to realize that there is a chapter of his wife's life in which he plays no part. In the story this man not only comes to grips with such a realization, but also with death, and the vicissitudes of life.

Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta, attend the "Misses Morkan's Annual Dance", held by Gabriel's two aunts, Kate and Julian Morkan. At the dance, Gretta is twice reminded of her past love, Michael Furey. First, a friend invites Gabriel and Gretta to a summer getaway in Galway, the place where she had had her relationship with Michael. Secondly, a song that Mr.

D'Arcy sings at the party, "The Lass of Aughrim", reminds her of Michael Furey. This is the song that Michael had sung to her on their long walks through the country. Gabriel, oblivious to how his wife is affected by such moments and anticipating a romantic evening, brings her to a hotel with the understanding that, "they had escaped from their lives and duties", if only briefly. When Gabriel questions Gretta's apathetic mood she tells him the tragic story of Michael Furey's illness and how he had revealed to her he no longer wanted to love after hearing that she must leave town. Gabriel is tormented by the dull, pathetic existence he has to offer his wife when another has devoted such deep felt passion to her, even in death.

Gabriel Conroy's amiable character is exemplified by his capacity for affection and his high education. Though he...