Ressurection of the living dead Essay

This essay has a total of 2022 words and 8 pages.

Ressurection of the living dead

Resurrection of The Living Dead
What is the difference between the living and the dead? Is simply walking, breathing,
and going through the motions of a living being applicable enough for one to be called
alive, or are such unemotional, detached actions more appropriate for the dead? James
Joyce deals with such questions in the novella The Dead, as he portrays a story of the
living dead, in which the antagonist, Gabriel, comes to the realization of his false
attempts at full livelihood. Through Gabriel, Joyce illuminates the struggles and tensions
that live within the human spirit as he brings about this central theme. As Gabriel attends
Misses Morkan’s annual dance, the full force of Gabriel’s incomplete knowledge of
himself, his country, and his wife, are illuminated. This lack of self becomes obvious to
Gabriel, as he reaches his epiphany towards the end of the story.
As Gabriel is first introduced, he is shown interacting with a symbol of the living dead
-- Lily. Lily, the caretaker’s daughter is described as having a “pale complexion”(Joyce
327), implying a deathly state, and her name, no less, is of the flower that is commonly
symbolic of a funeral. In addition to discovering that Lily is no longer in school, Gabriel
discovers that Lily has no intentions of marrying, and for that matter, no intentions of
furthering her life. Hence, she will always be nothing more than the caretaker’s
daughter. As Lily’s tone grew bitter as a result of Gabriel’s prying questions, Gabriel
“coloured” (328) as he was embarrassed the he had insulted her. Gabriel realized both
his failure to appear perfectly agreeable, and the possibility of being inclusive among
those men that Lily denounced -- those men she would not marry who were of “all
palaver and what they can get out of you” (328). This remark triggered an uneasy
realization in Gabriel, in that it dawned on him that he too was a man of all palaver and
no action, with intentions that were not always as they seemed. As Gabriel was a man of
all talk and no action, he “talks the talk” that the people want to hear regardless of
whether or not he agrees with what he is saying. In addition, he never openly acts upon
his own ideals, and is therefore a man of no action. And as for intentions, it becomes
evident at the end of the story that Gabriel was clearly not married to his wife out of love,
as in fact he was married to her out of lust. As Gabriel felt like a failure and did not want
to be perceived as anything other than a total success, he thrusted a gold coin into Lily’s
hand in hopes of exiting smoothly from the previously heated situation. Gabriel has
entered into the land of “the dead”, as he compromises his true self for the approval of
others, and as he is one step closer to the realization of his own meaningless life.
While Gabriel tries to pass in a world where he is not fully comfortable being himself,
he outwardly pretends to be a someone he is not. He is living this double life in which
his outward self expresses noting of his true inner self. Although it is evident that he
does have opinions of his own, he looks for the approval of others instead of from
himself. Gabriel’s contradiction from within is evident when he contemplates what
quote to center his speech around. As Gabriel pondered, “The indelicate clacking of the
men’s heels and the shuffling of their sole reminded him that their grade of culture
differed from his.” (328). Gabriel thought of himself as an educated man who was far
superior to those bungling men that surrounded him. Gabriel thought “He would only
make himself ridiculous by quoting poetry to them which they could not understand”
(328). Deferring to the lesser educated people at the party, Gabriel chose a simple quote
that everyone would understand, instead of the quote that he truly wanted to use. As
Gabriel tries to be the epitome of all men, he realizes that he must compromise his own
ideals and ways of thinking in order to achieve this status. He can speak as the educated
man that he really is and be as he called himself, “an utter failure” (328), or he can
sacrifice himself and speak to those around him and be a success. Gabriel is stuck
between two conflicting images of who he wants to be -- himself, or who others want
him to be.
Because Gabriel has lost touch with his Irish roots he does not wholly understand
himself. He feels Ireland is not as civilized as, for example England, and he therefore
feels too superior to be inwardly comfortable with his old fashioned heritage. Now
Gabriel, on the other hand, was very modern compared to those around him, and he
seemed to keep up with the new trends “on the continent” (330), as he arrived at the party
wearing goloshes. Gabriel was the only person wearing them at the party, and Gabriel’s
Aunt Julia didn’t even know what they were. In addition, Gabriel also took up writing
for The Daily Express, an English newspaper. Although he only signed his initials, G.C.,
in hopes that no one of Irish acclaim would recognize his name. Although someone did
-- Miss Ivors. “Now aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”, exclaimed Miss Ivors. And of
course she went on to accuse him of being a “West Briton”(334), even though Gabriel
did not claim to be loyal to the English. As their conversation continued, Miss Ivors
invited Gabriel for an excursion to the Aran Isles -- islands off of Galway. Gabriel
declined as he had previously arranged to go for a cycling tour outside of Ireland. Miss
Ivors was distraught at the fact that Gabriel would visit other countries “instead of
visiting [his] own.” (335). As Gabriel became extremely bothered with the conversing
going on he exclaimed, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it” (335). Gabriel did not
care to acknowledge the Irish in him. He obviously did not know the part of himself that
he would have known if he took pride in, and honestly participated in his Irish roots.
Aside from Gabriel’s lack of understanding of the Irish in him, Gabriel knew his wife,
Gretta, even less. Throughout the evening, he refers to Gretta as his wife, and not by her
name. It was almost as if she was not a person at all in Gabriel’s eyes. While Gabriel
was preparing to leave the party, he went to find his wife. He discovered her standing on
the stair case, attentively listening to Mr. D’Arcy singing and playing the piano. As
Gabriel did not truly know his wife, he is portrayed standing “in a dark part of the
hallway gazing up the staircase.” (348) at his wife. Furthermore, he “could not see her
face but he could see the terra-cotta and salmon-pink panels of her skirt”, thus illustrating
the fact that he does not know the sentiments of his wife’s mind, and that he only knows
her in a more lustful fashion. As his wife listened to the music that reminded her of her
lost love of long ago, Gabriel “strained his ear to listen” (348). Gabriel could not hear
this music of love because he has never experienced such a feeling himself. In addition,
he had no idea that his wife even had a past love. Moreover, he tries to make a symbol
out of his wife, further objectifying her. He even goes as far as to having the desire to
immortalize her in a painting. As his wife’s cheeks were colored, and “her eyes were
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