Modern Roman

· @tasali · ELIT403, Week 3-1

James Joyce is a modernist writer of 20th century. In his book, Dead (1914), we see a glimpse of his past.

James Joyce reflects his own thoughts and ideas on this piece. Gabriel Conroy has a lot of similarities with him and, with this, we understand that Joyce were not always in peace with himself.

James Joyce

He left Ireland due to WW1 and did not return because of WW2, but that is not the only reason. When he left his country, he was looking for ways to rediscover himself and learn his abilities.

Ireland as a country was going through a lot. British was trying to impose Protestantism, which led to a separation. There was a group supporting the British ruling, but there were also some who were conservative and didn’t.

The Dead (1914)

Joyce doesn’t like the Irish Nationalism as he thinks that it was the biggest obstacle in the progress of the country.

Gabriel Conroy, the main character of the story, has a similar point of view with the author’s.

The setting for the story is Christmas Eve. It symbolizes the unity. People have lost the values which tie them together and the Christmas could revive the lost connection.

There is always music playing in the background and the songs that are played belong to the past, which again symbolizes the revival of past.


  • Oliver Conroy — the main character.
  • Kate Morkan and Julia Morkan — Gabriel and Mary Jane’s aunts. They are elderly sisters who throw a party every year during Christmas time.
  • Molly Ivors — a long-time acquaintance of the family.
  • Lily — the caretaker’s daughter.
  • Gretta Conroy — Gabriel’s wife.
Kate Morkan and Julia Morkan - The Aunts

The function they have in the story is they unite people and create opportunity for people to come together. For that reason, they are a symbol for the nostalgia of the past. They build a bridge between the past and the present. They are also musical talent.

Kate looks like a flower and seems to be fading away.

Lily - The Caretaker’s Daughter

She takes care of the home and has a rebellious personality. She doesn’t have a good relationship with the aunts, which could show how the new generation is different from the older generations. The reason for that could be the change in social life.

Gabriel doesn’t understand Lily’s manners. At one point, he makes a joke about Lily dropping out of the school. He says that, as she is not going to school anymore, she will going to marry, but the reaction from her is unexpected. She thinks she has other opportunities in life, which can be summarized as the gap between the generations.

Molly Ivors - A Long-time Acquaintance of the Family

She is the representative of the Irish Patriotism. Her attitude towards Gabriel is sarcastic. She is both supportive and critical of him and Gabriel is confused about this approach.

Gabriel Conroy - The Main Character

Gabriel thinks literature is above politics. He is a teacher in the university. She doesn’t know much about his own root as much as he does about the outside world, which is his displacement.

He is worried that how he thinks will not lend him in place where he is accepted. He pretends to be someone else for that reason.

He has the lack of understanding, emotion and sympathy. He is leading a life that is not in his control, which causes frustration.

Gretta Conroy - Gabriel’s Wife

His relationship with her husband is that of the past (patriarch).