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The Dead By James Joyce

“The Dead” is an emotional story written by James Joyce. His works have been famous in Ireland’s literature. He is successful in matching the title with the theme and setting of the story.

The title of the story by James Joyce connects all the opposites, such as life and death, present and past, individual and the community, and Ireland with the world. Many significations and symbolism related to these opposites can be observed in many moments and scenes. There is a moment in the story when Gabriel stands in the dark part of the hall, looking up the staircase. He saw a woman who stood near the top of the first step in the shadow. The woman was his wife. The panels of her skirt appear black and white in the shadow, which contrasts life and death. The white represents life, and the black represents death. The wife’s face wasn’t visible to Gabriel. He could just notice the panels of her skirt. The stillness of his wife can also be symbolized as death. She was listening to something while leaning over the bannisters. Gabriel strained his ears to listen to what she was listening to. The shadow of the wife can be taken as a symbol of the past life. All Gabriel could hear was the sound of laughter and conflict, piano tunes, and a man singing. These voices can be taken as present life. The way Gabriel notices his wife and her mysterious attitude implies his individuality. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something (Joyce, pg.16). The things he was experiencing at that moment were something no one else could. He thought his wife was the symbol of something, but he was unable to identify what his wife symbolized. The distant music Gabriel’s wife was listening to can signify the past. Gabriel thought of painting this attitude his wife had maintained. If he were a painter, he would paint her in that way (Joyce, pg.16). This thought of being a painter depicts Ireland’s customs and traditions. Ireland is famous for its literature and arts. The music is also a symbol of Ireland’s specialities. Just like the blue felt hat complimented the bronze colour of the woman’s hair in the darkness, light compliments dark, and life compliments death. According to Gabriel, the distant music could be the picture he could have painted. Distant Music, he would call the picture if he were a painter (Joyce, 16).

The significance of the title and the relationship of the moment with the title can also be seen as everyone except Gabriel is dead to the sensation and feelings he’s experiencing. Also, the love for Gabriel isn’t alive in his wife’s heart. After the realization of the truth that Getta, Gabriel’s wife, loved someone else, Gabriel’s thoughts and expectations also die. The irony of the story lies in the person who died long ago was still alive at the moment, and the person who was looking at his wife from the hall was dead for her wife. “Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony” (Joyce, pg.22). All the opposites have been shown and signified in the particular moment of the story. The ending of “The Dead”, where Gabriel’s revelation takes place, clearly makes a connection between the living and the dead, an epiphany that echoes throughout Joyce’s works. “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (Joyce, pg.22).



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