TheDead by JamesJoyce is a novella that is filled with modernistic qualities.
Joyce’s style ofwriting, his themes, and his characterization of individual characters are someof the elements that make this short story so modern. The modern themes thatexist in this work are death, loneliness, depression, and failure. All of thesethemes lead into the biggest and most important one of them all, which isalienation. The protagonist, Gabriel Convoy, experiences feelings of separationfrom the very beginning of the story all the way to the end. Alienation was thedominant theme in The Dead,especially regarding Gabriel’s character.
There were many instances ofalienation throughout the story, including religion and social changes. GabrielConvoy symbolizes these feelings of alienation as he struggles with culturaland social differences at his aunt’s party.Gabriel Convoy, who is an excellentrepresentation of a man in a modern society, does not know how to socializewith the other people attending the party with him. He kept going back to thesame window because he wished he was alone outside rather than inside witheveryone at the party. Gabriel’s lack of communication skills is another thingthat makes him different than everyone else. While debating what to say in hisdinner speech, he could not decide what to say because he was embarrassed byhow he would be judged.
Throughout his aunt’s dinner party, Gabriel continuallyfinds himself in awkward situations that add to his feelings of loneliness andalienation.Gabriel’s initial awkwardinteraction is with the housemaid named Lily. His attempts at what he thinks isa friendly conversation backfire immediately when he asks to marry her. Lilyresponds to him in a very harsh way and left Gabriel hanging in the dust. He wasembarrassed by Lily’s reaction and felt like he should just have never openedhis mouth. This interaction with the housemaid shows the audience just howsocially inept Gabriel is with other people. The next one occurred a littlelater in the night with a woman in the story named Molly Ivors. She negativelycommented on Gabriel’s outfit, and even though she was not entirely serious, hetook her words to heart.
Unconfident and unsure how to respond to Molly’sjokes, Gabriel felt more insecure and distant from the people at the dinnerparty. Being unable to communicate with anyone in a positive mannercontinuously has Gabriel feeling isolated. Gabriel’s final awkward moment iswith Gretta, his wife.
This encounter portrays Gabriel’s feelings of alienationas it leads to his famous epiphany. It was at this point in the story where herealizes that he does not love Gretta as much as Michael did, who died for her.Gabriel sees it as Michael is still alive and that he is alienated from lifeand has not been living this whole time.Being that this is the second timeI have had to read The Dead for acourse, I think I know it pretty well, especially regarding modernism.
Apartfrom the theme of alienation, Gabriel Convoy is a modernistic character becauseJoyce identified him more with imperialist England instead of his home country,Ireland. This is an aspect of modernism because the customs of the morepowerful country, which was England, reflected the customs of the weakercountry. Gabriel Convoy’s use of England’s customs left him feeling isolated.It is evident that James Joyce used the character of Gabriel Convoy in The Dead and the themes of alienation torepresent his feelings of isolation from the society he lived in.