26 pages 52 minutes read

James Joyce

The Dead

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1914

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “The Dead”

“The Dead” is a story about Gabriel Conroy reckoning with his own limitations. Gabriel repeatedly struggles with social interactions, in which he often projects his anxieties outward rather than inward. When he is welcomed into the house by Lily, their conversation abruptly ends due to Gabriel’s awkward comments. Rather than reflect on what he has said, Gabriel tries to fix the situation by giving Lily a generous tip. The tip does nothing to calm his anxieties, and he alludes to class differences and his overeducation as to why he struggles in these circumstances. After, Gabriel dances with Miss Ivors. She is as educated as Gabriel and from the same social class, but her comments about Irish nationalism result in a similarly awkward interaction. Rather than joke with Miss Ivors, Gabriel retreats from her into a corner of the room. He blames her rampant nationalism for the awkwardness. Gabriel is the common denominator in these repeated awkward interactions, but he always blames someone or something else. Even when he is worrying that the literary references in his speech will not be appreciated by his audience, he never considers altering his speech. Instead, he blames others for not being as educated as himself.