James Joyce’s story “The Dead” has a tremendous impact on thereaders, especially those who are familiar with the political situation inIreland at the time about which the Joyce wrote the final story inDubliners. In exploring the meaning of James Joyce’s long short-story,”The Dead”, there are many critical approaches to take. Each approachgives readers a lens, a set of guidelines through which to examine andexpress ideas of the meaning of “The Dead. ” Joyce himself said that theidea of paralysis was his intended them of all the stories in The Dublinersof which “The Dead” is the final story.
Of all critical approaches, readerresponse works best for me. This approach examines the images, symbols,point-of-view, characterization and setting of “The Dead” in such a way asto reveal the theme of paralysis that Joyce intended. The two charactersthat appeal to me are, Gabriel and his wife Gretta who are invited everyyear to a family gathering by Gabriels two aunts on New Years eve. Gabriel,who is a university professor, does not want to be identified with Ireland.Order now
He wants to be identifies as a citizen of the world. His arrogance is revealed in his interaction with others. Aprimary example would be the way he treats his wife Gretta as an object. As Peter J.
Rabinowitz informs one that in reader responsecriticism the “activity of reading always alters the text at hand. Unlesswe are limiting ourselves to reading in the sense of uninflected recitation,reading is never a passive activity to which the reader contributes nothing. In the reader response criticism, reading is a text in which individualexperiences bear on the subject. Every individual interprets the textdifferently due to one having different experiences that determines theinterpretation of the text. (138) The images reflect Gabriels ego in a sense, at the same for hismarital relationship, and at the end death, which may not be physical butspiritual.
Gabriel who is tallish and stout symbolizes authority and alsowants to be perfect for all times. He has a mental block, which makes himbelieve that he is more superior and different than others are. He’s builta screen around himself, which stops him from identifying himself with the”Common Man. ” The “polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of theglasses which screened his delicate and restless eyes. “(23,24).
Thisimage perhaps tells us that the glasses are the screen that partition hisvision from the vision of others. Joyce’s intended theme of paralysis is exemplified in thesymbolization of snow. In the story, snow has a major role as itsymbolizes the political situation at the same time where everything wascold and dead due to the political uncertainty at the time. Snow alsoplays a major role as it interprets the reader to be on the alert, asthings at the end are not going to be as smooth as Gabriel had predicted. This seen in the shift of mood when after the party had concluded, Gabrieland his wife are heading towards the hotel and he’s in a very romantic moodand looking forward to a night of romance. On the way, snow suggests thatthings are not going to be so smooth.
“The morning was still dark. A darkyellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky seemed tobe descending. It was slushy underfoot; and only streaks and patches ofsnow lay on the roofs, on parapets of the quay and on the area railings”(51). The snow at the end of the story takes a different form. As whenGabriel realizes that his wife Gretta has really been thinking aboutsomeone else while he thought that all her thought’s would be about him,especially at the moment where he is in a romantic state of mind.
Hisworld comes hurdling down when Gretta informs him that she has beenthinking about her life when she was an adolescent and had a seventeenyear old boy who was madly in love with her. Despite the fact that he wassuffering from tuberculosis, he waited in the rain just to have a glimpseof her. This aggravated his condition and eventually he died. “I thinkhe died for me.
” “A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer as if, atthat hour when he had hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictivebeing was coming against him, gathering forces against him in it’s vagueworld” (57). At this moment Gabriel realizes .