Literary Analysis: Clay and The Dead
In the fifteen Dubliners stories, city life, religion, friends and family bring hope to individuals discovering what it means to be human. Two stories stood out in James Joyce’s Dubliners. One story attempts to mislead readers as it is hard to follow and the other story is the most famous story in the book. In the stories “Clay” and “The Dead,” James Joyce uses escape themes to deal with the emotions of the characters, Maria and Gabriel living in the Dublin society. Both stories take place during the winter on Halloween and Christmas, which are the holiday seasons and the season of death.
In “Clay,” the main character, Maria is a patient, old woman and a former maid for rival brothers Joe and Alphy Donnelly. Now that they’re all grown up, she seems to be “lost” in her life, childless and unmarried, and is now an employee at a Laundromat. Maria has struggled for what seems like most of her life both financially and socially. Maria lives on a small but independent income from a job that earns her the respect of co-workers and bosses. Glimpses of poverty are seen in this story when Maria becomes concerned that she lost the cake that she bought for the Donnelly family. “Maria said she had brought something special for papa and mamma, something they would be sure to like, and she began to look for her plumcake” (99). Maria’s loss of the cake is painful because she paid a big price for it. Maria was trying to treat her loved ones despite her limited income.
Although Gabriel from “The Dead” isn’t poor like Maria, he isn’t very wealthy either unlike his aunts. Gabriel is just an average writer. He doesn’t hold annual parties like his aunts do every year to make him seem snobbish to others. Joyce manages to make Maria come off as an average saint, much like a Virgin Mary, who seems to be unaware of the humility that she goes through. Her appearance, although, is witch-like. Whenever she laughed twice while drinking the tea “the tip of her very long nose nearly met the tip of her very long chin” (101). When she later looks at herself in the mirror, she does not see her face at all, only her body, as it looked when she was young. “In spite of its years she found it a nice little tidy body” (96). Joe’s children were instinctively put –off by Maria’s physical ugliness which was a great sorrow to Maria. A lovely person like Maria should have been married and should have a chance to know the love of a husband and children of her own.
Gabriel also gets criticized and “put-off” by the guests, his family and his aunts during the party. Even though his moving, heartfelt speech brought his aunts to tears, Gabriel knows and thinks that one day, in the not-too-distant future that he will return to his aunts’ house, not for another holiday party, but for their funerals. Gabriel wanted to escape and leave the house, but he acted very gentlemanly at the party even though there were miscommunications and disagreements...