James Joyce’s “The Dead”
So I’m a couple of posts behind, something I’ve dreaded and knew I would succumb to along the year. Hoping it’s just a stumble along the journey. Nevertheless, I’ve returned to make them up…
“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, father westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gatge, on the barren thorns. 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.”
-last couple of sentences of James Joyce’s The Dead
Saturday’s story was specifically chosen for the blizzard that made its way in the tri-state area, hitting the city pretty hard in all five boroughs. It actually was brought up as a recommended read by a fellow peer of mine in my fiction class and that’s when I realized that, somehow, I’ve managed to avoid Joyce’s last story in Dubliners. Whaaaaaaat?
So I got on it and boy was I glad I finally did =]
I had an older copy, but I just had to get this Centennial Edition
This story is full of memorable characters and the dynamic relationships they all had to each other made for a great reading. Set at the Misses Morkan’s annual dance, they all had moments that brought them to life, to the spotlight, and provided brief glimpses at their pasts as well.
“The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.”
Lines like the above one, from Lily, shine bright throughout the story. This one foreshadows in a way Gabriel’s eventual speech and his feverous desire for his wife, Gretta, at the end of the story.
Another scene that caught my attention was that between Gabriel and Miss Ivors as she requests him on to go on an excursion to the Aran Isles for the summer:
“–And haven’t you your own land to visit, continued Miss Ivors, that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?
–O, to tell you the truth, retorted Gabriel suddenly, I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!
–Why? asked Miss Ivors.
Gabriel did not answer for his retort had heated him.
–Why? repeated Miss Ivors.
They had to go visiting together and, as he had not answered her, Miss Ivors said warmly:
–Of course, you’ve no answer.
^Damn…shut down. Gabriel definitely is one of the story’s most internally conflicted characters as well.
And of course, what’s there to say about the final discussion in the story between Gabriel and Gretta?
“–I think he died for me, she answered.
So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life…Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”