Term Paper: Role of Women

Pages: 7 (2459 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Further, Gabriel's specific curiosity concerning his wife at the top of the stairs, and the music that she could hear but he could not make out, is particularly significant:

A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see her face but he could see the terra-cotta and salmon-pink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. It was his wife. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something. Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also. But he could hear little save the noise of laughter and dispute on the front steps, a few chords struck on the piano and a few notes of a man's voice singing.

Again, the reader can clearly see that Gretta, as a woman, is acutely aware of something Gabriel is not. Further, even as Gabriel strains to hear he can hear nothing but "noise," symbolic of his general detachment from reality. What is interesting is that his awareness of her as a symbol of something he cannot place, illustrates, as does his discomfort throughout the party, that he is almost struggling with the notion of dark reality, immortality, and "the dead." He is not completely oblivious, but, in a sense (perhaps like society as a whole), deliberately (at least to a degree) suppresses his awareness of reality in a way women cannot (or do not).

All too easily, Gabriel ignores the feeling of symbolism that Gretta represents on the stairs, and his " ... eyes were still bright with happiness. The blood went bounding along his veins and the thoughts went rioting through his brain, proud, joyful, tender, valorous." He is again distracted by false reality -- distracted by his psychologically invented romantic projections toward his wife -- and, typical of men of his culture and time, "he longed to defend her against something and then to be alone with her."

Gabriel is filled with joy in their return home and assumes that Gretta shares the same feeling. Or, at the very least is not distracted by any great thought. Yet the reader soon finds that this is not the case. Gretta is not in the same delusional reality as her husband, and she brings the point crashing home to him, an eventuality foreshadowed by the "dark yellow light" that "brooded" over the houses as "the sky seemed to be descending."

But the reader sees that Gabriel, once disabused of his romantic thoughts, is not bothered by mere jealousy at the knowledge that his wife had not only loved before, but had seen her love die for her sake -- what becomes apparent by his musings after Gretta sleeps and he lies awake in thought, is that her story has forced him out of his reverie of false reality. She has brought him face-to-face with darkness, with mortality, and with death. Indeed, Gabriel ponders his love only a moment before moving to the uncomfortable acknowledgement of the aging of his wife, as well as his Aunt Julia and her obvious impending death. Gretta finally dragged him into the world where:

Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

Gabriel finally, through Gretta, gains insight into "the past, present, and future."

He, reluctantly, is forced to see that his present life is an illusion, and he, and all around him will soon be an inevitable part of "the dead." To be sure, Joyce makes several points of particular interest to feminist critics. However, to view the women in The Dead merely as symbols of the feminist cause is a grave error. After all, the women in the story, through their representation of feminist issues serve a function -- for like in society as a whole, they are the catalyst touchstones that drag men (as represented by Gabriel), into the stark reality of life.

Works Cited

Anspaugh, Kelly. "Three Mortal Hour (i)s'; Female Gothic in Joyce's 'The Dead'." Studies in Short Fiction 31.1 (1994): 1-12.

Brea, Jennifer. "Penelope: In Search of the Feminist in James Joyce." 2002. Retrieved from Web site on 3 March, 2001
Jameson, Conrad. "Banking on Joyce." New Statesman, July 10, 2000.

Joyce, James. Taglieri, Gina. "Dubliners." New York: Education Assn; (September 1996)

Mosley, David L."Music and Language in Joyce's 'The Dead.'" Retrieved from Web site on 3 March, 2001
Power, Arthur. "Conversations with James Joyce." Clive Hart, ed. London: Millington, Ltd., 1974. p. 29.

Banking on Joyce.(James Joyce fans)(Statistical Data Included)



Brea, Jennifer. Penelope: In Search of the Feminist in James Joyce."james+joyce"+and+"feminist?"& hl=en& ie=UTF-8

Power, Arthur. Conversations with James Joyce. Clive Hart, ed. London: Millington,

Ltd., 1974. p. 29.

Anspaugh, Kelly. "Three Mortal Hour (i)s'; Female Gothic in Joyce's 'The Dead'." Studies in Short Fiction 31.1 (1994): 1-12.

Joyce, James. Dubliners.

Mosley, David L. Music and Language in Joyce's 'The Dead.' [END OF PREVIEW]

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