Dubliners: The dead
One is the most significant works of the 20th century is Dubliners. The fifteen stories which the book contains were all written by 1905, except for The Dead, the longest and most ambitious piece, which was written in 1907.
The work is an acute analysis of Dublin's life. Joyce himself wrote : " I wanted to write a chapter on the moral history of my country, and I chose Dublin for the scene because the city seemed to me the center of paralysis.
The Dead , at the other hand, is the last of the stories in Dubliners. It forms the climax to the theme of decay and stagnation that runs through all the stories. But it also goes beyond the earlier stories by developing a more compassionate view of the lives of its characters, as well as moving away from the rigorously and objective presentation of their lives. Here we see Joyce moving towards intimates study of his characters' inner lives, in a way that was to be far more fully developed in the "stream of consciousness" technique of his later novels.
The first takes place at a dinner party shortly after Christmas. The second is a kind of musical coda, in which the central character , Gabriel Conroy, meditates in a hotel room on what has passed, and is overwhelmed by the futility of his own life as well as those of the men and women whose company he has just left.
The first section is set at the house of Kate and Julia Morkan, Gabriel's aunts, two elderly unmarried sisters who every year hold a party for their family, friends and pupils (the two old ladies give music lessons for a living). Joyce skilfully makes them representative of contemporary Ireland, including denominations (Catholic and Protestant) and political sympathies. All the events are viewed through the eyes of Gabriel Conroy, a schoolteacher and critic , married to a beautiful wife, Gretta, who is also present at the party. The high point of the party for Gabriel is a speech he makes after dinner:it is applauded by everyone and Gabriel leaves the party feeling self-satisfied and exultant. As he and Gretta walk home he is filled with love and desire for his wife, and remembers the happy moments in their courtship and married life. But once they reached the intimacy of their hotel bedroom he realizes, to his astonishment, that his wife is weeping ; he seems to comfort her, and is shocked to find out that an old Irish song sung at the party had brought back to her thoughts the memory of a young man, Michael Furey, who had been in love with her and had died for her sake, at the age of seventeen.
After Gretta has fallen asleep, Gabriel lies awake and thinks of the events of the night: his own fatuous complacency , his petty irritations and weak desires, and the futility of the lives that surround him.