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The Dead (1914)

af James Joyce

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7161223,249 (4.04)35
A New Year's Eve gathering in Dublin is the setting of this elegant, accessible masterpiece that ends with a signature epiphany by the protagonist, who offers a perspective on the lives, dreams, and feelings of the party's guests. This beautifully packaged series of classic novellas includes the works of masterful writers. Inexpensive and collectible, they are the first single-volume publications of these classic tales, offering a closer look at this under-appreciated literary form and providing a fresh take on the world's most celebrated authors.… (mere)

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Synopsis

“The Dead” by James Joyce is a book that works on several levels. You can read a detailed synopsis at “End Notes”. I will, however, write a synopsis of the synopsis. I was left with a few questions. Is it just about the dead, or is it also about remembrance? Do the Dead come to life? When do we die?

It is a short story. Most of the story takes place over dinner, at a social event of, Christmas. The misses Morkan’s have invited everyone for the “annual dance”. Their nephew, Gabriel and his wife, Gretta, are the favored guests. Gabriel is the master of ceremonies. He is pompous and does not think much of his fellow guests. He gives a speech ruffling no feathers. After dinner, Gabriel notices his wife listening as Bartell D’Arcy, accompanied by Miss O’Callaghan at the piano, sings a traditional Irish song— “The Lass of Aughrim.”

Later, when he and Gretta return to a hotel, he is overcome with passion for her. She, however, is lost in the past. The song has brought back memories of her teenage years, and a young boy, Michael Furey, who died of a broken heart for her.

Gabriel is left to stew in his own juice and is forced to evaluate their marriage and what it means.

My Review

It is a short book, as I wrote earlier. “The Dead” is a finely layered book. At one level, we get a clear understanding of Gabriel’s character. He is pompous and carries himself with an air of superiority.
It paints a picture of a social event hosted by three aging ladies, and the conversations and conventions that we observe at such events.

It paints a picture of Gabriel and Gretta’s relationship. Are they as happy as they seem to be? It forces the reader to ask: are we as happy in our relationships as we believe? None of us will know for sure.

Love and death are two themes that James Joyce explores skillfully. You are unlikely to forget your first love, especially if that person died of a broken heart for you. Indians who have seen the Hindi film, “Devdas”, will attest to the enduring appeal of a love story that ends with one person dying of a broken heart. I find “Devdas” melodramatic. James Joyce has written about Gretta’s love beautifully.

Finally, the dead. When do the dead leave us? When we forget them, I suppose. James Joyce hints at our complex relationship with death when the conversations veers to the monks who sleep in their coffins. They are preparing for what is coming, as the conversation goes.

Finally, the memory of Michael Furey comes back with a vengeance. He seems to come to life to wedge himself between husband and wife.

We never discover if this wedge has now become permanent. Is their marriage ruined beyond repair? Can Gabriel to work to repair any past damage or fill a void in their marriage?

We can speculate. We are, however, left with the dead. The Dead seem to live within us. Is this what remembrance is about?

When do they leave us? ( )
  RajivC | Nov 19, 2020 |
I went back to an old favorite a day or two ago. I started rereading The Dead, which is the last story in James Joyce’s Dubliners, and a novella in itself. I chose it because it was one of the titles I encountered in the audiobook I’m currently reading, and the discussion of it reminded me not only of how much I love the story, but of how much meaning can be taken from even a short read. Over the years I’ve found so many different things to ponder in this story, and I thought that refreshing my acquaintance with it would be a good start to the year.

This time I found myself focused more on Gabriel than anyone else, focused on his nervous self-consciousness which reminds me so much of my own. I watched him fret over his speech, still stinging from a criticism which may or may not have been mean-spirited, it’s hard to tell when we can only see it from his point of view. I found myself impatient with him because he mirrored the things in myself that make me impatient. And yet this time, I saw what a huge thing it was for him to turn away from the possibility of irrational anger and toward a deeper, greater understanding, not just of his wife and their marriage, but of life and love in general.

Gabriel is changed by his willingness to go beyond his own insecurities to understand and feel empathy for his wife’s sorrow. We can redeem ourselves, I think Joyce is telling us, if we step outside of our own heads and attempt to understand the lives of those around us.

I made the right choice of reading material. The story refreshed me, helped me shake off the mental fatigue I’d been feeling. More than that, I want to recommend this story to everyone as one that touches concerns that we all share because we’re all human beings. ( )
1 stem Tracy_Rowan | Mar 20, 2018 |
An extraordinary piece of fiction which starts off being about one thing, then turns into a story about something else, but then turns in a completely different story. Joyce does this in a seamless way that makes it seem inevitable. The very end is devastating. ( )
  eachurch | Aug 9, 2014 |
"Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?" ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
"Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?" ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
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James Joyceprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Zimmer, Dieter E.Oversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet.
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This work includes any editions which contain the single story/novella The Dead. Please do not combine it with any story collection.
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A New Year's Eve gathering in Dublin is the setting of this elegant, accessible masterpiece that ends with a signature epiphany by the protagonist, who offers a perspective on the lives, dreams, and feelings of the party's guests. This beautifully packaged series of classic novellas includes the works of masterful writers. Inexpensive and collectible, they are the first single-volume publications of these classic tales, offering a closer look at this under-appreciated literary form and providing a fresh take on the world's most celebrated authors.

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