The House of Mirrors: Finding the Reflection of Pride and Prejudice in Joyce's "The Dead"

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I am a huge Pride and Prejudice fan.  Actually, I’m a big Jane Austen fan in general.  And I always like to clarify that I liked Pride and Prejudice before it became a fad with the recent spurt of movies such as a new version of Pride and Prejudice (2005), Becoming Jane (2007), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), and probably other ones I don’t even know about.  I read it for the first time in 2003 and have read it several times since.  But regardless, my point is that I like it, and therefore am constantly on the lookout for allusions to Pride and Prejudice and I frequently try to find intertextual relationships between it and other works of literature.  I actually wrote a blog entry last February in LA150 in which I related Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” to Pride and Prejudice.  I always jump at the chance to prove how influential and far-reaching Austen’s writings are.  So as strange as it seems, I am going to relate Joyce’s short story (from Dubliners) “The Dead” to Pride and Prejudice.

First, I would like to go over some background.  James Joyce attended the University College Dublin and studied the Modern Languages of English, French, and Italian.  He also participated in many literary circles.  It is a relatively safe-assumption, therefore, to believe that he would have been very well-read.  He would have read many classics and contemporary works, and even if he had not read a particular work, he would undoubtedly have at least been familiar enough with it that he had a general understanding of what the book was about and who the main characters were.  Furthermore, as we discussed in our Advanced Literary Study class, Joyce was not particularly concerned about the Irish language and considered English to be his language.  However, while he valued the English language, he still realized that much of Ireland’s problems were caused by England’s meddlesome hand in Ireland. 

Now, as for Pride and Prejudice, it was published in 1813 (as compared to Dubliners in 1914).  Pride and Prejudice was not an immediate phenomenon when it was published.  According to Wikipedia, most of Austen’s works did not relate well with the Victorian and Romantic ideologies prevalent at the time.  However, as time went on, the intellectual elite (including Henry James) looked favorably upon her book, so that by the time the 1880s rolled around, her works had become immensely popular.  So Joyce, who was born in 1882, would have most likely been familiar with Pride and Prejudice.

On page 184 of Dubliners, the reader gets their first introduction to a Mr. D’Arcy.  Mary Jane informs Miss Daly, “I’ve got a nice partner for you, Mr. Bartell D’Arcy, the tenor.”  Immediately when I saw the name D’Arcy, I thought of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  Indeed, the two names are pronounced in the same way.  Now, if these were the only similarities between the two works, I would simply brush it off as a coincidence.  But, the relations between the two works continue. 

Joyce in fact reverses the dancing situation at the Morkin's party from what it is when Elizabeth and Darcy first meet at a party.  Mary Jane comments, “…but really we’re so short of ladies to-night” (184).  It would seem that at this party there is a dearth of females.  Meanwhile, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth stresses to Colonial Fitzwilliam about Darcy that, “He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner” (324).  So Joyce flips the situation from their being an abundance of females, to a scarcity of them.

Finally, the last parallel between D’Arcy and Darcy is the references to their pride and conceit.  Gretta comments of D’Arcy, “ I’m trying to get that Mr. D’Arcy to sing.  He’s full of conceit, I think” (191), while Elizabeth of Darcy affirms, “From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain…” (334).

So the ultimate question is of course, why did Joyce create these parallels between the two works?  What meaning does “The Dead” gain by Joyce attempting to conjure Pride and Prejudice into his readers’ minds?  As we have discussed repeatedly in Advanced Literary Study one of Joyce’s major themes is paralysis and I believe that Joyce so infused his story with this idea, that even the relatively minor character of D’Arcy represents this idea and that Joyce further stresses this idea by juxtaposing this D’Arcy with the Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  For indeed, anyone who has every read Pride and Prejudice cannot help but see the development of Darcy’s character.  Through his love for Elizabeth and her initial rejection of him, he transforms into a different person, one whose pride is not his predominant characteristic.  However, D’Arcy from “The Dead” shows no such progression.  Granted, his conceit is never so great as Darcy’s, or at least Joyce does not show it to us in that way.  But nonetheless, he seems to be pretty much the same person at the beginning of the story as he is when he leaves the party.  Granted, he does eventually sing, but it is not for everyone.  He tries to hide his singing upstairs in a room with just himself and one other person.  And it is this song after all that causes Gretta’s reverie which eventually causes Gabriel’s own epiphany to his inert position and blindness.  But D'Arcy himself never becomes aware of anything new and comes into the reader's vision and leaves as the same character, unaltered, unchanging, paralyzed. 

Anyway, before I start writing more and make this blog even longer, I will stop.  But I will leave you all with several questions:

1.  First off, do you think that Joyce intended for the reader to take D’Arcy as an allusion to Pride and Prejudice or am I reading too much into it?  Do you think his intent even matters, if I, a reader perceive there to be a connection between the two works? 

2. If there is a parallel between the two works, why did Joyce create it? Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation?  Would you like to add anything to my reading?

3. What do you think of the reversal of their being too many women to not enough in the two works?    

4. And lastly, D’Arcy in “The Dead” asserts that there are as many good singers today as there was in the past, they are simply in “London, Paris, Milan” (200) and not in Ireland.  Do you think this quote is relevant to my reading at all (particularly the reference to London) or the Irish sentiments of the time, why or why not?    

*For anyone not familiar with these works:

Click here for a summary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or here for the full text.

Click here or here for a summary of James Joyce’s “The Dead” or here for the full text. 

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1983. 224-445.

Joyce, James. “The Dead.” Dubliners. New York City: Penguin Books Ltd., 1993:175-225.

Works Consulted

Jane Austen. Wikimedia. 19 Feb. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Feb. 2009.                 <>.

James Joyce. Wikimedia. 19 Feb. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Feb. 2009.                 <>.

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Phil Alberts said:

I think you are reading too much into the coincidence of names. On the other hand I think Anne Pigone leaned heavily on P&P when she wrote her feminist spoof of The Dead, The Ugly.

Greta Carroll said:

Thanks for sharing “The Ugly” with me, Phil. I was not aware of its existence. I started reading it (and because of time constraints, have not finished it yet), but I can already see many allusions to works that Pigone makes. One of them for example being “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell.

However, if Pigone feels that she needs to lean on Pride and Prejudice don’t you think that it is possible that she did so because she perhaps perceived that “The Dead” was doing the same?

Meredith O'Brien said:

I think that the association is obvious given the quotes that you gave. Speaking of Darcy and conceit, how can anyone who read Pride and Prejudice not make that association? On the other hand, in response to your firstquestion, as to whether it matters if it was the author's intent... absolutely yes. If you have never seen Seinfeld, and write a book that has a character named Cramer, who happens to have some eccentricities, and I assume that it must be a reference to Kramer, then I am dead wrong in my assumption and any parallels I draw are meaningless. So I say that it does matter, but that the intent in this case is obviously there.

Well, Greta. I have not read Pride and Prejudice or seen the movie. It is actually on my summer reading list (along with the last two Twilight series books) so I don't want to read the summary. I think that the observations you made, however, are quite estute. That virtually takes away my ability to answer all your questions. I applied Joyce's feelings that Ireland cannot go back to the past as the reasoning behind the singers in Ireland. It would be a way of saying that they could move on and look forward, not backward in history. They cannot pretend to be something they aren't anymore.

Greta Carroll said:

Thanks for your thoughts Meredith, I’m glad to see that you think I made my argument well. However, I’m not sure I agree with you about author-intention. I mean, we really have no idea what Chaucer, for example, might have intended by many of his works. Some critics do their best to argue what he most likely meant, but we can never know for sure, since we can’t ask Chaucer. And in fact, even if Chaucer said he did intend something he could be lying whether consciously or subconsciously. But the connection for me, as the reader is still there if I perceive it.

To use your example about a character named Cramer who is eccentric, even if the author didn’t mean for him to be taken as an allusion to the Kramer on Seinfeld, if I think that he is, my understanding of the work is still changed and I may have no idea that the author didn’t intend for it to be taken that way. So what about my now changed perception of the book? I can’t stop myself from making relations between Seinfeld’s Kramer and this other Cramer, how do I/can I discount this from my interpretation?

As to Angela, I’m happy you think my entry is “estute,” lol. And I understand that your commentary will be limited since you have no experience with Pride and Prejudice (you should definitely read it this summer by the way), but what do you think about the author-intention vs. reader-response issue. Do you agree with Meredith, me, or are you somewhere between the two. What do you think?

Derek Tickle said:

I also noticed that there were a lot of references to singing in Irish literature.

I will add my response to all:

I think that Joyce had intended for readers to understand the hardship that many Irish people were encountering. As for the reader-response, I think that everyone is going to have a different take on any issue they choose. As for me, I think that Joyce was reflecting that Ireland was encountering a lot of prejudice, but not nearly enough of pride.

Has this role changed over many years?

I think that Ireland has much pride now because the people are realizing that there own culture is very important and it needs to be carried on for a life time.

Katie Vann said:

Greta, I can see how you related "Pride and Prejudice" to "The Dead". However, I'm not sure that Joyce intended for there to be a parallel or a connection. I can easily see where you made your connections, but as to saying that Joyce wanted us all to be reminded of Austen while reading this work, I'm not so sure. I'm not sure that there is enough concrete evidence to relate the two, even though there is some basic connections such as Mr. Darcy and Mr. D'Arcy. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but thats just how I felt about it though. Still, I thought your connection was very creative.
Derek I agree with you that Ireland has more pride now, but I still think there is still some prejudice existing because part of the country is still split. However, I think alot of the hard parts of their battle has been fought to establish national pride.
Did anyone else see any connections to any other works?

Greta Carroll said:

Derek, I really, really like your relation to the title Pride and Prejudice to the issue of the prejudice the Irish were experiencing and the pride they lacked. That correlation adds another good reading to perhaps why Joyce might have alluded to P&P. And I agree with Katie, I think Ireland has gone a long way towards forming a sense of national identity. However, I also think that this battle is not over (again as Katie pointed out), Ireland is not whole or united and there is still that issue of Northern Ireland being separate from the rest.

As for other connections with other works, I’m sure there are many of them. I suggested in a comment on Angela’s blog that there could be a relation between the paralysis which Joyce accentuates and the immutable life on Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” You can check that out here:
Of course, we have no real way of knowing whether Joyce had this in mind at all. But I think that if the reader perceives these connections whether the author intended them are not, they are still important to our readings since it changes the way one identifies with the text. Now, I’m not trying to say that author intention isn’t important to the meaning of a text, I think it is. But perhaps in the Pride and Prejudice relation and in the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” case, there is not enough evidence that the author could have intended it, so maybe I should stick more to reader-response criticism in these cases.

Derek Tickle said:

I think that reader-response applies to this much more than author intent. As you can see, each one of us has had a different approach to the text.

I wonder if it is because of our gender difference (male and female) and our past experiences?

In response to Katie, I am not sure of any other movies that we can apply this to, but what about other texts?

What about historical texts that relate wars in a way that we do not know the specific war until the end, just as Joyce waited until the end to present us with the major event between Gabriel and his wife.

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