Reader Response To James Joyce's The Dead

1138 words - 5 pages

Reader Response to Joyce's The Dead

  James Joyce's story "The Dead" has a tremendous impact on the

readers, especially those who are familiar with the political situation in

Ireland at the time about which the Joyce wrote the final story in

Dubliners.  In exploring the meaning of James Joyce's long short-story,

"The Dead", there are many critical approaches to take.  Each approach

gives readers a lens, a set of guidelines through which to examine and

express ideas of the meaning of "The Dead."  Joyce himself said that the

idea of paralysis was the intended theme of all the stories in The Dubliners

of which "The Dead" is the final story.


Of all critical approaches, reader

response works best for me.  This approach examines the images, symbols,

point-of-view, characterization and setting of "The Dead" in such a way as

to reveal the theme of paralysis that Joyce intended.  The two characters

that appeal to me are, Gabriel and his wife Gretta who are invited every

year 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.

He wants to be identifies as a citizen of the world. His arrogance is

revealed in his interaction with others.  A

primary example would be the way he treats his wife Gretta as an object.


      As Peter J. Rabinowitz informs one that in reader response

criticism the "...activity of reading always alters the text at hand.  Unless

we 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 individual

experiences bear on the subject.  Every individual interprets the text

differently due to one having different experiences that determines the

interpretation of the text. (138)


      The images reflect Gabriels ego in a sense, at the same for his

marital relationship, and at the end death, which may not be physical but

spiritual. Gabriel who is tallish and stout symbolizes authority and also

wants to be perfect for all times.  He has a mental block, which makes him

believe that he is more superior and different than others are.  He's built

a screen around himself, which stops him from identifying himself with the

"Common Man."  The "...polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the

glasses which screened his delicate and restless eyes...."(23,24).  This

image perhaps tells us that the glasses are the screen that partition his

vision from the vision of others.


      Joyce's intended theme of paralysis is exemplified in the

symbolization of snow.  In the story, snow has a major role as it

symbolizes the political situation at the same time where everything was

cold and dead due to...

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