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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 the literature of Ireland. 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 was a moment in the story where Gabriel stood 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 appeared black and white in the shadow which gives the contrast of life and death. The white showing the life and black representing 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 leaned over the banisters. Gabriel strained his ears to listen to what she was listening. 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 noticed 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 which he was experiencing at that moment no one else could. He thought his wife to be the symbol of something, but he was unable to identify what his wife symbolizes to. The distant music Gabriel’s wife was listening 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 attitude (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 also is a symbol of Ireland’s specialty. Just like the blue felt hat complimented the bronze color 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 are dead to the sensation and feelings he’s experiencing. Also, the love for Gabriel isn’t alive in his wife’s heart. And after the realization of the truth that Getta, Gabriel’s wife, loved someone else, Gabriel’s thoughts and expectations also dies. The irony of the story lies in the person who died long ago was still alive in 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 among the living and the dead, an epiphany that echoes throughout the 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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