James Joyce - Dubliners
James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882 in a rich family: he received an excellent education in a Jesuit college. He was a good friend of the Italian writer Italo Svevo who was influenced by the Irish writer.
James Joyce is probably one of the most important and radical innovators of the modern novel. He moved from symbolic and realistic style of his first prose work, such as Dubliners, to the revolutionary style of his later works as Ulysses.
Dubliners was published in 1914 in London and it's a record of fifteen stories about the lives of different people living in Dublin, that isn't simply the set. Joyce used an external narrator but the story is told from the point of view of the main character.
The fifteen stories follow the four phases of the human life, from childhood, to adolescence, mature and, finally, the public life (political, artistic and religious).
The Dubliners focus on two recurrent themes: paralysis and epiphany.
Paralysis can be described as a condition of the modern man: in most of the stories the principal characters have some desire that they would like to realize but they are stopped by the circumstances such as family, culture and religion.
The second theme, epiphany, a technique invented by Joyce himself, describes a sudden event who stop the everyday life of the characters and, after this, the characters have got a more profound understanding of themselves but passively continue with their lives as before.
"The dead" is the last one short story of the Dubliners and it's considered one of the finest short story of 20th century literature. It was added later to the record of stories and was partly the result of Joyce's reflections on the nature of the human life.
Maybe it was this story to move the author to produce another novel, Ulysses.
The plot is simple and it takes only one evening: Gabriel, the protagonist of the story, and his wife Gretta are guests at a party organised to celebrate Epiphany. In the first part of the tale Joyce can describe the society of the time and, in the second part, there is the central part of the story. Gabriel and his beautiful wife go to they hotel in Dublin and the husband asks to his wife because she was so sad. So Gretta starts to tell that she remembered her love for Michael, a young boy that died for her. At the end of the story Gabriel looks out of the window the snow falling and he meditate about his love for Gretta that is so insignificant compared to Michael's.
The principal themes are: epiphany, first for Gretta and then for her husband Gabriel, and the paralysis of the society of the time, unable to react.