Re-reading ‘The Dead’ – it’s as vibrant as ever with a wonderful creation of a party – handling so many characters – unusual in conventions taught about the short story, where such a number might be considered a challenge. The story is about the growing awareness of Gabriel not only of his wife Gretta being drawn to her own past, the loss of an earlier love, a past and world he cannot be part of, but is also actively rejecting. There is a lack in him – such a contrast to the abundance of food the aunts have prepared. Despite Gretta coming from the west of Ireland, he is reluctant to visit there. He is ‘modern’ – not to be drawn, as are other visitors seeking the Gaelic twilight. But his wife’s connection is deeper. Gretta emerges out of the story, out of the crowd at the party, delineated as her own person. She turns his response on its head. I can’t help but wonder if Joyce ever visited the west, especially the area near Galway known as Joyce’s country – if he matched my ventures there.
First published in Dubliners, First published in Dubliners, Grant Richards, 1914. Widely available online, including here