Carnival "THe DEAD" What is dead?

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What does the title refer to in "The Dead?" There are many argument theories including that the dead really means those who died in the story, or figuratively speaking the characters of which have dead emotions.  Some including myself would say that it is not about death at all but about rebirth specifically the rebirth of Irish heritage and society (Cengage.)

 Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland.” Winter comes so that the ground may be reborn in the spring.  This statement is unusual in this story because snow does not fall very often in Ireland, which is the setting of the story. This would be a rare in this setting and for James Joyce to choose the snow is a green light for symbolism.

 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”(Joyce).

Though all seems depressed and hopeless at the end of “The Dead” Joyce still manages to include the fact that he is not explaining a death at all when he writes on the very last line “ upon all the living and the dead.”

·      What do you think the snow symbolizes?

·      Do you think I am going in the right direction or do you agree with the other critics?

More on James joyce and what others think 

Online Literary Criticism Collection

·      What other proof can you find to my thesis about James Joyce “The Dead?”  Back to Carnival

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9 Comments

Per Morlin said:

Kayley, you should have chosen another text-color in your post - it is rather unreadable as is.

I know that Anne Pigone in her "The Ugly", which is a rewrite of "The Dead" from a feminist point-of-view, does not go for "the rebirth of Irish heritage and society" angle, despite the JJ comments reported by Joyce's brother, Stani, which would perhaps lead one to think in that direction. I agree with Pigone.

Greta Carroll said:

Kayley, the name of the short story intrigued me as well. However, I took it a little different than you did. I looked at it from a more formalist lens. I considered “The Dead” under the category of word choice, and as the title of the story it is one of most significant word choices of the story.

I thought that Joyce managed to create a sensation of stagnation in the reader through the title, “The Dead.” The reader finds himself surprised as he expectantly waits for someone to die in the story or the main focus to shift to someone who has died. Upon reading the title, the reader envisions a setting of a funeral home or something else dark and gloomy. Instead, most of the story takes place at a party and the person who is dead is not even mentioned until the last six pages of the story. The reader begins to be lured into a false sense of security as he entertains the possibility of escaping the story unscathed. Even as the reader keeps in mind that the name of the story is “The Dead,” as he waits and waits for the horror to arrive, the reader begins to relax his defenses as the story goes on and on without this happening. By the time he reaches the place where Michael appears, the impact is increased. So I guess, basically what it comes down to is that I viewed the title as a technique to create suspense in the story.

But I am certainly not saying your take is wrong either. I think Gabriel is in a sense reborn. He finally begins to be able to see the world for how it is. As for Pigone’s work, “The Ugly,” I have read part of it, although not enough to form any real opinions on it. But just because Pigone does not go for the rebirth idea, does not necessarily mean that Joyce didn’t have it in mind. Of course this just circles back to what is more important, the author’s intent or the reader’s response?

I feel that Joyce may not have fully intended for us to see the message as purely all death or even rebirth. Instead, I think that he may want us to see the dichotomy. These two things can exist in a tandum. With death, literally, people are born to keep the human population stable, and even, on the rise. Figuratively, the death of someone you know/don't know, can really impact you to create new you, or become "reborn." I think that Joyce wants to present this death to us to remind us that we will all die one day, enjoy life while you can. On that note, I'm going to go enjoy life!

Derek Tickle said:

I think that you chose a very interesting topic to criticize. I think that Greta and Angela, both, have great points. I believe that Joyce was trying to show people, through literature, that even though Ireland has encountered many events that resulted in people of "The Dead" the Irish are still able to move ahead and start a new future.

A reader-response to this title may be that Joyce is showing us, readers and humans, how important life is. Even though we struggle through certain events in life, we all are able to move ahead and enjoy the people and things that we encounter throughout our lives.

As Greta stated about Gabriel being reborn is very true. I think that all of the events in the story mislead him to believe that his life is good. This quickly changes when his wife explains her former love to him with great concern and saddness.

Here is a question to everyone!

Is the title "The Dead" significant enough to connect it with history or being reborn, or is it just a way that Joyce tries to persuade us from what will occur in the story?

In other words, is Joyce trying to persuade the ideal reader?

Katie Vann said:

In reponse to your question Derek, I feel that Joyce intended to use "The Dead" to relate to Ireland's past. As Greta said, Gabriel encountered a rebirth during the story, whether it was an awakening for better or worse we will never know because the story ended shortly after the rebirth. However, I think Joyce used this story as an example of Ireland to show that the citizens just couldn't keep going through the motions (thank you Dr. Cusick for that phrase) of wanting their own nationality and pride, but instead that they had to be moved to real action with real emotion in order to make what they were doing meaningful. Through Gabriel, Joyce showed that how avoiding taking risks and just going through the simple duties of life didn't really make a life for him, but instead just a regret and a life of paralysis by the end of the story. I think Joyce wanted people to make their actions more meaningful, otherwise he wanted to prove that all of their "motions" would only lead to paralysis.

Greta Carroll said:

Katie, to add to what you were saying, I think that Gabriel also represents Ireland in the sense that even though Gabriel now realizes he was “just going through the motions,” he can never go back to how things were before. He will always be haunted by Michael Furey and the years he spent with his wife never truly understanding her. He can move forward and make the best of the life he has left, but he can never get back the time he has lost or his old perceptions of life.

This goes along with Joyce, unlike the Revivalists in Ireland, believing that Ireland could never go back to the way it once was, but instead needed to come up with a new identity. Every time I think of this idea it reminds me of the explanation Father Stephen gave in EL250:Bible as Literature about the psalms. There are psalms of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. And the same three categories can be applied to Irish history. Before the English colonization, they knew who they were. Then they became disoriented under their control, and finally now they are struggling for a new orientation. But notice that it is a “new” orientation and not “reorientation.” The Irish, as Joyce believed, could never be “reoriented,” they couldn’t go back, they could only go forward.

Derek Tickle said:

Wonderful connection between classes!

I also believe that Ireland may still be searching for their new orientation because of how much separation and isolation they have encountered.

I think that Ireland is trying to get reoriented because they need to find their new vision.

But we may never know their true forward vision or will we?

Katie Vann said:

Wow Greta, that was good and creepy at the same time. During the time you were leaving this comment on my blog, I was leaving a comment (I think on Derek's) about how Ireland had to let go of the past and continue moving towards the future. I really liked the explanation you gave using what we learned from Bible as Lit, of course it was something very useful that I couldn't remember.
Derek I agree with Greta that it was a new orientation and not a reorientation. Ireland couldn't simply go back and fix themselves, they had to create something new and stronger.

Yes, Katie, I noticed the similarities between you comment and Greta's, too. So to be fair to Greta, I'm going to have to praise her for her great observation. As I said to Katie, Greta, that idea really helped me understand the author's intent for "The Dead." All of the sudden, that story was transformed in my eyes and suddenly made sense.

I think that is was a new orientation also because they are in a weird limbo as to their true identity. Imagine if you were thrown in jail for years and years. One day, you are suddenly let go. Where do you go? What do you do? Who are you? This would have to be incredibly disorienting.

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