Category Archives: Dublin

Have I Ever Loved?

“He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years the image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.”

“Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards a woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.”

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

I choose this last paragraph because to me it really showed Gabriel understanding the meaning of love and realizing that he was not in love. Gabriel is gazing out of his hotel window, watching the falling snow and reflecting on his wife Gretta’s recent confession about her childhood love, Michael Furey. Earlier in the story, Gabriel had been intoxicated by Gretta’s preoccupied mood, which reminded him of their courtship, but her outburst of sobbing had seemed to undermine his self-assurance. This quiet moment of contemplation portrayed Gabriel’s hushed acceptance that he was not Gretta’s first love, and that in fact he has never felt love at all. The blanket of snow suggests this sense of numbness in Gabriel’s character he is literally frigid to emotion. The snow does not fall only outside of Gabriel’s window, but, as he envisions it, across the country, from the Harbor of Dublin in the east, to the south in Shannon, and to the west. In other words, everyone, everywhere, is as numb as he is.

I believe that for someone to come to terms with the fact that they have not experienced love can be detrimental. When you have been living your life especially being married and you find out that your wife has loved another man more than you it makes you want to question your self-esteem. When you find out that a man has killed himself and that your wife is so distraught and you turn it around and know that you have not felt that feeling so you must not be numb would cause anyone to become numb. This passage here is very instrumental in showing the emotional rollercoaster one goes through when discovering the truth about “love.”

Gabriel just wants to please

“I will not attempt to play tonight the part that Paris played on another occasion. I will not attempt to choose between them. The task would be an individuous one and one beyond my poor powers. For when I view them in turn, whether it be our chief hostess herself, whose good heart, whose too good heart, has become a byword with all who know her; or her sister, who seems to be gifted with perennial youth and whose singing must have been a surprise and a revelation to us all tonight; or, last but not least, when I consider our youngest hostess, talented, cheerful, hardworking and the best of nieces, I confess, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I do not know to which of them I should award the prize” (40).


The passage demonstrates the way in which Gabriel tends to take a selfless or martyr-like attitude. Gabriel is shown to be attempting to stay as non-controversial as possible in the eyes of others. By refusing to choose a favorite of the women, it is proving that he wants to stay on everyone’s best sides.


Gabriel also tends to want to display that he puts the interests of others before his own. “Gabriel began to carve second helpings as soon as he had finished the first round without serving himself. Everyone protested loudly, so that he compromised by taking a long draught of stout, for he had found the carving hard work.” (31). However, when he wanted to make love to his wife, he was had very greedy selfish thoughts, but he resisted because it was working against his selfless image.

Overall, Gabriel is a self-conscious man. He wants to make others happy, and beats himself up when he says the wrong thing. For example, he was angry at himself for giving unsolicited hints about Lilly getting married.  Gabriel’s toast to the three women describes Gabriel’s goal to make everyone happy.

Booze, Gossip, and Status Symbols

“…Besides they were dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins might turn up screwed. They would not wish for worlds that any of Mary Jane’s pupils should see him under the influence; and when he was like that it was sometimes very hard to manage him. Freddy Malins always came late…”

“Slip down, Gabriel, like a good fellow and see if he’s all right, and don’t let him up if he’s screwed. I’m sure he’s screwed. I’m sure he is.

“A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles. It is serious and enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected, is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought- tormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hypereducated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day. Listening to-night to the names of all those great singers of the past it seemed to me, I must confess, that we were living in a less spacious age. Those days might, without exaggeration, be called spacious days: and if they are gone beyond recall let us hope, at least, that in gatherings such as this we shall still speak of them with pride and affection, still cherish in our hearts the memory of those dead and gone great ones whose fame the world will not willingly let die.”

The contrast between men and women in this story is exceptionally comical, especially with the insert of the drunken “minstrels” like Freddy Malins. On this interesting place called Usher’s Island in nowhere else but Dublin, Ireland, a conflict of culture appears. The issue seems to be between, a culture of gossip and “modesty” masked by sobriety, and a culture of drunken euphoria reveled by the majority of the men. These cultures affect the appearance of status in Joyce’s short story, and some characters even have the strength to rise above them.

The women of the party, including Miss Kate and Miss Julia, are wonderful representations of the gossip side of this argument. They are very concerned with the state of the party as whole, but they do not necessarily take part in the dancing or anything that might give them such a reputation of being as wild as the men are. “Of course they had good reason to be fussy on such a night.” Even when Julia just goes halfway down the staircase to monitor the situation, Kate immediately goes into panic. There is this whole entire notion that Kate and the other girls as well as Gabriel, who is politely asked to “Slip down…like a good fellow,” set themselves up on a pedestal above this lowly culture of drinking and dancing in order to keep their social status as “modest” people who get along well.

It is very interesting to me, however, that Kate makes a very pushy assumption regarding Freddy’s drunkenness. It is one thing to be sure of something to be true, but does it go deeper than that? It appears as if Aunt Kate wants this unflattering assumption to be true. In essence, she wants Freddy to crash the party, but disguises her gossip through her sobriety and high-standing. One moment she shares a moment of hope or pity, and then the next she snaps into a tirade about how “terrible” someone is. While Gabriel keeps his own negative thoughts pretty quiet, we do get a subtle statement that he perceives the aunts as “two ignorant old women.” This could very well show Gabriel’s dedication to a true doctrine of being modest and earnest.

While the gossip culture and the drinking culture pretty much divide the two sexes from the start, Gabriel seems to push past these barriers, sitting “at the head of the table.” So even though he remains a man that technically should not be above this fun culture of dancing and drinking and gossiping, he keeps up this mantra of being morally and socially presentable, only going against this in some cases during the dinner as means to compromise for the sake of the others at the table (he believes the most important tradition is that of hospitality.)

Aside from the stereotypical culture, Gabriel steps apart and gives a type of sermon on how much the world is changing around them, going so far as to prophesize the “new generation.” Alluding that his mind and everyone else’s is far more capable of the petty things the reduce themselves to indulge in everyday.

This can be very closely related to the situations that face people in the city. Anyone is capable of accomplishing the highest possible feats of humanity such following traditional virtues like hospitality, but they are also held in bondage by the culture they subject themselves to. We clearly see here that amidst all the status symbols and stereotypes, Gabriel is not subject to his culture. He is detached from it, and he is able to achieve full self-realization because of this.

Dublin / Ireland – New Role of Women

“It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan’s annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia’s choir, any of Kate’s pupils that were grown up enough and even some of Mary Jane’s pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat. For years and years it had gone off in splendid style as long as anyone could remember; ever since Kate and Julia, after the death of their brother Pat, had left the house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane, their only niece, to live with them in the dark gaunt house on Usher’s Island, the upper part of which they had rented from Mr Fulham, the corn- factor on the ground floor. That was a good thirty years ago if it was a day. Mary Jane, who was then a little girl in short clothes, was now the main prop of the household for she had the organ in Haddington Road. She had been through the Academy and gave a pupils’ concert every year in the upper room of the Antient Concert Rooms. Many of her pupils belonged to better-class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line. Old as they were, her aunts also did their share. Julia, though she was quite grey, was still the leading soprano in Adam and Eve’s, and Kate, being too feeble to go about much, gave music lessons to beginners on the old square piano in the back room. Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, did housemaid’s work for them. Though their life was modest they believed in eating well; the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea and the best bottled stout. But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders so that she got on well with her three mistresses. They were fussy, that was all. But the only thing they would not stand was back answers.


Joyce’s The Dead takes place in 1904, only 25 years after A Doll’s House was published. In this passage I have noticed a drastic change in the roles that women had in daily life. While in a previous comment on a post about A Doll’s House I was a bit skeptical about how condescending and sexist the language was, I do not deny that women were clearly treated as subordinate to men. Men were always seen as the heads of the household and they were almost always the only source of income. However Julia and Kate’s niece, Mary Jane, was described to be “the main prop of the household”.

However, this passage which happens to be on the first page,  briefly describes the lifestyle of the Morkan’s. Although their lives were described as modest,  “they believed in eating well; the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea, and the best bottled stout”. Steak, tea, and beer are not overly extravagant in this time period nor were they in the beginning of the 20th century, but I find it interesting that the sisters bought themselves steak and beer – which are usually things that men would enjoy. They also hosted “a great affair, the Misses Morkan’s annual dance”. Again, it is not uncommon for women to throw a party, but typically there would be a man of the house involved who is equally or more important in the festivities.

I also noticed something in contrast to A Doll’s House – there was so much emphasis throughout the play on the shame associated with loans and having to pay back debts. Nora was not allowed to sign a loan document without the signature of a man. However, in The Dead, the Morkan sisters, Julia and Kate, rent a house from Mr. Fulham, and there is no indication that there is another man involved with the legal documents.

I’m curious about whether the increasingly independent lives of women portrayed in The Dead were both changes because of the time period as well as different locations (A Doll’s House takes place in Norway, The Dead in Ireland).

James Joyce’s “The Dead”: Brief Interactions

[Mrs. Ivors]: “I have a crow to pluck with you.”

“With me?” said Gabriel.

She nodded her head gravely.

“What is it?” asked Gabriel, smiling at her solemn manner.

“Who is G. C.?” answered Miss Ivors, turning her eyes upon him.

Gabriel coloured and was about to knit his brows, as if he did not understand, when she said bluntly:

“O, innocent Amy! I have found out that you write for The Daily Express. Now, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

“Why should I be ashamed of myself?” asked Gabriel, blinking his eyes and trying to smile.

“Well, I’m ashamed of you,” said Miss Ivors frankly. “To say you’d write for a paper like that. I didn’t think you were a West Briton.”

Throughout the night, as the usual guests arrive at the party, each interacting with one another in a seemingly typical way, they make judgments of one another. However, these judgments are not based on personality, or social qualities. Rather, they are based on physical appearance, occupations, and relationships. Although Gabriel considers himself quite successful in terms of those three qualities, he is still the subject of negative judgments from the other guests.

These interactions contribute to Gabriel’s frustration, as they occur repeatedly throughout the evening. The interaction that impressed me particularly was the one between Gabriel and Mrs. Ivors, while the two danced together. This scene is made especially repetitious by the very nature of the activity, which calls for the switching of partners with each dance. He even ends up dancing with Mrs. Ivors twice during the same dance, adding to the sense of inevitable repetition.

The conversation between Gabriel and Mrs. Ivors is, from it’s very beginning, concerned only with Gabriel’s occupation. She labels him as a “West Briton,” because he has a literary review column in a paper that she must consider to be upper-class. She asks, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”, and when he denies, she says, “Well, I’m ashamed of you.” This frustrates Gabriel because he is being judged based on his occupation and accomplishments, rather than his personal qualities. What makes Mrs. Ivors’ comments even more bizarre, is that she goes on to say that she was “only joking.” Yet, this does not change Gabriel’s feelings about her judgments.

Throughout the evening, Gabriel feels that he cannot control the way that people view him, because they expect him, as with every other guest, to be the same each year. The guests mingle around the party, developing brief snapshots of their peers’ personalities that aren’t truly accurate. Gabriel grows sick and tired of this monotony as the night goes on, despite the fact that most of the other guests think of him quite highly. Eventually, it leads to him reconsidering his way of living. This reconsideration culminates in Gabriel’s looking out the window, and realizing that it is time to travel west.