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I have one caveat: the essay representing feminist criticism I frankly find baffling. The writer, apparently trying to have her cake and eat it too, manages to indict Joyce as a sexist while applauding the story as a critique of sexism and patriarchal hegemony! It does not "seem" to occur to her that Joyce may be removed from his central character, Gabriel, or that her evidence for Gabriel's male arrogance may actually be Joyce's idea from the start. A close reading of the character certainly suggests an ironic portrayal--everything that appears to be in Gabriel's favor is exposed through Joyce's subtle language as self-delusion. The feminist critic, however, impugns Joyce by suggesting that his "intentions" are less honorable than the meaning of the text itself!
Perhaps the writer is overstating a point in order to provide a better example of the type of critical approach she was asked to represent for the purposes of this anthology. I know that I will suggest as much should I again have occasion to use this particular essay.
The story, set in Dublin, covers one evening during the Christmas season when two sisters, the Misses Morkan, Julia and Kate, hold their annual dance, the event of the season and not to be missed. Their nephew Gabriel and his wife Gretta are of course invited. Gabriel is pompous and, to use a current expression, full of himself as he gives his usual speech at the event. The last 4 or 5 pages of this rather long-- although there is not one sentence too many-- story contain some of the most moving language you will encounter in English. Joyce makes a sad, profound statement about love, life and death and asks the question of how well do we really know those people closest to us.
The story became the director John Huston's last film by the same name (1987). He cast his daughter Anjelica as Gretta. Tenor Frank Patterson, who left us far too soon, sang that glorious song "The Lass of Aughrim" in the movie that is almost as good as Joyce's story.
Everyone who loves literature should read this perfect story.
Gabriel's required speech during dinner praises the Irish tradition of warm hospitality. But something causes his wife, Gretta, to hark back to her girlhood and her first love--whose poignant memory threatens his plans for connubial bliss in their hotel room. Delicate as the snowflakes which blot out the city landscape, barely plotted with delicious hints of unexpressed emotion, The Dead transports readers to a different gas-lit age, where beauty and grace are subtly exhibited and passionately sought after. Joyce reminds us that music possesses the power to evoke the past and serve as a catalyst both for pain and pleasure. This may be read in one sitting, but don't miss the author's other reminiscences.
Although this quotation is not from "The Dead", it's a good introduction. Joyce's affecting novella explores the theme of the pull those who have passed on exert on those of us still here. There are no allusions to the supernatural, only an honest confrontation of the stubborn fact that there are relationships that trump death. But it's not a sermon; it's a story and a very good one.
Joyce has set the scene at a party in Dublin around the time of the feast of the Epiphany, just after the turn of the twentieth century. Please join the party. Settle into your favorite reading chair with a pot of tea (or an Irish whiskey) and enter into a world long vanished. You can become indignant with the strong republican, smile at the drunk, reminisce with the hostesses, and - perhaps - even hear ever so faintly the music. Pay close attention to Gabriel and Gretta Conroy as they enter from the cold. Joyce builds their characters with individual brush strokes: these are real people, with contradictions and passions, not stock characters. As the party ends, you will have had many occasions to reflect upon "our dear departed" and our ties to them.
But Joyce has given Gabriel and Gretta a final dramatic scene to play out. Their intense and exhausting encounter leaves the reader in a stew of emotions and calls him or her to cast their own minds back through the halls of personal memory. Entertaining and rewarding are apt, but inadequate, praise for this gem.
When you've finished the story, rent the film version brilliantly directed by John Huston, download "The Lass of Aughrim" to your iPhone, and have another pot of tea - or glass of Irish whiskey.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful literary piece. It is slow in the beginning but so moving once you get into it. Everyone should read this bookPublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The author's writing is superb and I realluy enjoyed reading thisPublished 1 month ago by Eddie Story
It's only my first reading. I have heard that Joyce can be difficult. I don't know what to make of the narrative.
His development of the scene and characters is fantastic. Read more
This seemed to me to be just a writing exercise. It is excellent word smithing but no story.Published 2 months ago by ArizonaLarry
How could anyone write a story or make a movie about a dinner party and have it turn out brilliant, interesting, and a well developed character study of many characters? Read morePublished 3 months ago by Lorenzo
The prose is excellent, but that is not the entire reason of why I like this piece. Although on my first read of The Dead I did not like it, it always returned to my mind at... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sarah Sunday
The last story of "Dubliners" is a Joyce classic. I first read this in junior high and I revisit it every couple of years.Published 6 months ago by RKW