26 pages 52 minutes read

James Joyce

The Dead

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1914

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Impenetrable Knowing

To Gabriel Conroy, the world is an unknowable place. He is an insular man who focuses on his own interests and travails over everyone else. Gabriel struggles to relate to others, which makes his social interactions difficult and awkward. When he first arrives at the party, for instance, he stumbles through a conversation with Lily about her love life and only seems to placate his anxieties by giving her a large tip. From there, he dances with Miss Ivors and struggles to keep up with her gentle teasing. He takes her comments about his lack of patriotism to heart, feeling as though she has attacked his identity. He retreats to the corner of the room and scowls at the interaction, then silently worries that his awkwardness is the reason why she leaves so early. Even when he plans his speech, he worries that the other guests will not understand his literary references. Rather than make changes, however, Gabriel simply worries. He is so insular and focused on himself that he cannot imagine the minds or motivations of others. He keeps his emotions bottled up and hidden, assuming that everyone else is doing the same to him.