Role of Gabriel in ‘The Dead’


Role of Gabriel in ‘The Dead’

‘The Dead’ is a short story by James Joyce in his collection of ‘The Dubliners’. The story revolves around Gabriel and Gretta Conroy. The story starts with a Christmas party organized during the Feast of the Epiphany, organized by Kate and Julie who are Gabriel’s aunts. Both of them are important members of the Dublin aristocracy as musicians in the country. The annual party which they organize is very flamboyant with music, dancing and a feast that is worthy for a king.

In this scene Gabriel and Gretta are portrayed as a happy couple. They joke and laugh at the party an indication that their marriage life is happy. However, this is not the case. In the short story, the author wants the audience to see a better picture of Gabriel, to achieve this author allows the reader to analyze the character of Gabriel by showing his inner emotions and thoughts. Gabriel is viewed as a person who is filled with insecurities revolving around his life. When his wife reveals the reason for her withdrawal after the party, she reveals that she was thinking about her first love. This makes Gabriel to question his feelings for his wife realizing that he has never felt love as experienced by Gretta. Due to her feelings of withdrawal, Gretta refuses to give in to Gabriel’s demand for sex even after he takes the step of booking a hotel room. This is an indication of the failure of Gabriel’s relationship with Gretta (James, 2006).

During the dinner, Gabriel is unable to connect socially with the rest of the participants. His jokes on marriage for his niece falls on deaf ears which forces him to retract the joke by offering her cash so that she forgets the misplaced joke. It is clear that Gabriel has poor communication skills (Bowen, 2013).When dancing with Miss Ivor Gabriel makes unsavory remarks when reviewing the character of the Irish people and how he feels outclassed by the ingeniousness. In the story we see Gabriel full of love for his wife; by the way he rents a hotel room at a hotel after the party to ensure that Gretta does not fall sick due to the cold if they travel home. It is clear that Gabriel has not been able to communicate his love feelings to Gretta as indicated by his wife’s ignoring his advances at the hotel. The marriage of the couple is also experiencing communication breakdown as indicated when Gretta reveals to him of her past love with a boy named Michael. When Gabriel is on his own meditating he recognizes the lack of communication in the marriage and accepts the fact that he does not know his wife at all.

The story is set in the Christmas period a time that Christians should reflect on their religion and spirituality, instead Gabriel becomes disoriented especially after his wife’s revelation. This forces him to question his religious beliefs questioning the meaning of life, making him wish that he could die to escape this treacherous life.

The epiphany of the story is clear when Gabriel is told of his wife’s past love life. This makes Gabriel to realize that his life has been built on lies, his deep feelings of love was all for nothing since Gretta is still in love with his first boyfriend. This revelation makes Gabriel self- aware of his relationships and social life which depresses him greatly (Platt, 2011).

Work cited

Bowen, Z. Musical Allusions in the Works of James Joyce: Early Poetry Through Ulysses. Albany: SUNY Press. 2013.

James, J. The Dead: Loving and Losing. London: Oxford Press. 2006.

Platt, V.Facing the Gods.Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion.Cambridge University Press. 2011.


Posted on: October 14, 2018, by :

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