The Upper Class Of Society In The Dead By James Joyce

1706 words - 7 pages

The Upper Class of Society in The Dead by James Joyce

The novella "The Dead" by James Joyce tells the tale of early twentieth century upper class society in the Irish city of Dublin. The story tells of the characters' entrapment, and the tragic lives they lead, hiding behind the conventions of their society. Joyce uses the symbolism to draw a parallel between the natural way in which the snow covers the land and the way in which the characters use their culture unnatural to cover reality. This story comes together, not only to tell of the individual tragedy of these peoples lives, but to tell the tragic story of all of Ireland, as it's true problems become obscured in so many ways.
The main character of "The Dead" is Gabriel Conroy, a young Irish man who, amidst the forced gaiety of his aunts annual Christmas party, comes to realize that the life he is living is much different than he cares to admit. This unwillingness to face truth is a major theme in the story and ties in with their avoidance of problems their country is facing as well. Throughout the story, every time a controversy erupts, it is hastily buried amidst other conversations, more comfortable in their situation. At the very beginning of the story, Lily comments to Gabriel that "The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you." Reluctant to offer any true solution, Gabriel hands her a coin, using his money as an escape as he "walked rapidly towards the door." (p. 187) He quickly triess to cover up by "arranging his cuffs and the bows of his tie," (p.187) a meaningless activity, at best. The next blatant display of ignorance comes with the discussion of Freddy Malins. Aunt Kate whispers quietly to Gabriel "don't let him up if he's screwed. I'm sure he's screwed." When Gabriel brings Freddy up, however, he gives his seal of approval, agreeing that Freddy is not so bad tonight. All those in attendance refuse to recognize Freddy's alcoholism. Instead of confronting him, they simply avoid it and act as if nothing is wrong. Later, during a religious debate that is beginning to heat up, the characters again attempt to evade the issue. "… we really are all hungry and when we are hungry we are all very quarrelsome," someone says and they end by saying that they will "finish the discussion afterwards," (p. 205) a promise they all know is not true. They head to the dinner table with Gabriel in the lead, "ready to carve a flock of geese." (p.206) This tradition prevents them from having to have any further discussion on matters that they find uncomfortable. It is much easier for them to ignore reality and live in a world where the carving of the goose supersedes all else in importance. Many of the issues addressed, such as alcoholism and the question of religion are problems that the Irish nation had been struggling with for many years. The people ignored these problems, however, much in the way the characters ignored evidence of these...

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