26 pages 52 minutes read

James Joyce

The Dead

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1914

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Character Analysis

Gabriel Conroy

Gabriel Conroy is a teacher and sometime literary critic. He is the protagonist of “The Dead” and embodies the themes and ideas explored in the short story. Different characters think of Gabriel in different ways. His aunts view him as a dedicated, upstanding family-orientated man who is trusted to sit at the head of their table and carve the celebratory goose, playing the role of the family’s masculine figure. They trust him with dealing with the drunken Freddy, and they cannot wait for him to arrive. To other people, however, Gabriel is something of a mystery. In two early encounters, Gabriel reveals his awkwardness as female characters try to understand him better. Lily and Miss Ivors interact with Gabriel but leave him feeling anxious and awkward. Gabriel cannot forge a relationship with these women as they expect more from him than his aunts, who simply want him to play a role at their party. To these characters, Gabriel seems unknowable.

This concern about unknowability eventually becomes an obsession for Gabriel. After his awkward encounters, he begins to think of Gretta in a different way. He sees her in a new light and realizes how little he actually knows his wife.