The Dead By James Joyce Essay, Research Paper
The Dead’s Effect From Beyond the Grave
It is known that many times people have their greatest effect on the living after they have passed away. In the story The Dead, by James Joyce, it is clearly seen that Michael Furey, the ex-boyfriend of Gretta, has his greatest effect on Gretta from beyond the grave. Death shows man’s greatest flaw and when people have a close brush with it, they are forced to come to the reality that they, too, will someday die. The realization that death is approaching yields decisions of change to make life more enjoyable and to prepare themselves for the life after. Gretta recalls the time that she spent with the first man she loved, and
Michael Furey had a lasting effect on Gretta because of the things he did for her while he was alive; however, she appreciated the things he did for her even more after he died. Michael and Gretta had been lovers when the two were younger, prior to Gretta’s marriage to Gabriel. When Michael found that Gretta was moving away from him, Michael lost all desire to live. A week before Gretta left, Michael went to Gretta’s grandmother’s house in the pouring cold rain to see her. He stood outside despite the sickness that he knew would come because of his actions, until finally, after a great deal of pleading by Gretta, he returned home. A couple of weeks later, Gretta received the news that Michael Furey had died; he had grown sick and died because he loved Gretta so much. This had a profound impact on Gretta because the one man she had ever loved had given up his life to spend only a few minutes with her.
Michael Furey was at the back of Gretta s mind for many years, until she was at a party where she became aware that there was a possibility that she could visit west Ireland, Michael s home. Ms. Ivors, a friend of the Conroys, offered the trip to Gabriel as a friendly gesture. When Gabriel said that he would not go on the trip, Gretta showed that she was upset by pleading, O, do go, Gabriel, I d love to see Galway again. (144) The urgency that Gretta expressed was further revealed when she begged that Ms. Ivors stay at the party being hosted by Gabriel s sisters for only ten minutes (145) in the hopes that Ms. Ivors would convince Gabriel to go on the trip. It was clear that Gretta had a desire to reacquaint herself with the past and with Michael Furey.
As the night progresses, there is an additional event that pushes Gretta over the edge and makes Gretta reveal her past and the love that she shared with Michael Furey. Mr. D Arcy, a talented singer at the party, was asked to perform a song for everyone at the party. As fortune would have it, the song he chose to sing was titled The Lass of Aughrim, a song that Michael Furey had often sang to Gretta during their walks in the woods. Gretta s mood had changed after she heard the performance of the song. Prior to the song, Gretta had been in a good mood; but, now all she could think of was Michael Furey. When Gabriel questioned Gretta s change in mood she merely responded O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim. (153) Gabriel knew something was wrong, but he could not figure out what. Gretta finally explained that she was reminded of Michael Furey, and for a while she spoke about him as if he was still alive. Gretta had been turning the thoughts of Michael over in her mind for some time, and that this was the release of her supressed feelings. Gretta loved Michael very much, and the reason she had such a lasting effect on her after he had died was because Gretta believed he died for me. (153)
Michael Furey had his greatest effect on Gretta after he passed away because of the things he had done for her while he was alive. It is difficult to say whether or not Furey would have impacted Gretta s life so much if he had not died and left her to build up fantasies in her mind about what could have been between Michael and Gretta. The unselfishness of Michael s acts for Gretta left her with a nearly perfect man to compare all future boyfriends to. Because Michael had been such a great boyfriend in life, he left a lasting effect on Gretta in his death.