Trifles Essay Research Paper James Joyce

Trifles Essay, Research Paper

James Joyce’s story “The Dead” has a tremendous impact on the

readers, especially those who are familiar with the political situation in

Ireland at the time about which the Joyce wrote the final story in

Dubliners. In exploring the meaning of James Joyce’s long short-story,

“The Dead”, there are many critical approaches to take. Each approach

gives readers a lens, a set of guidelines through which to examine and

express ideas of the meaning of “The Dead.” Joyce himself said that the

idea of paralysis was his intended them of all the stories in The Dubliners

of which “The Dead” is the final story.Of all critical approaches, reader

response works best for me. This approach examines the images, symbols,

point-of-view, characterization and setting of “The Dead” in such a way as

to reveal the theme of paralysis that Joyce intended. The two characters

that appeal to me are, Gabriel and his wife Gretta who are invited every

year to a family gathering by Gabriels two aunts on New Years eve. Gabriel,

who is a university professor, does not want to be identified with Ireland.

He wants to be identifies as a citizen of the world.

His arrogance is revealed in his interaction with others. A

primary example would be the way he treats his wife Gretta as an object.

As Peter J. Rabinowitz informs one that in reader response

criticism the ” activity of reading always alters the text at hand. Unless

we are limiting ourselves to reading in the sense of uninflected recitation,

reading is never a passive activity to which the reader contributes nothing.

In the reader response criticism, reading is a text in which individual

experiences bear on the subject. Every individual interprets the text

differently due to one having different experiences that determines the

interpretation of the text. (138)

The images reflect Gabriels ego in a sense, at the same for his

marital relationship, and at the end death, which may not be physical but

spiritual. Gabriel who is tallish and stout symbolizes authority and also

wants to be perfect for all times. He has a mental block, which makes him

believe that he is more superior and different than others are. He’s built

a screen around himself, which stops him from identifying himself with the

“Common Man.” The ” polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the

glasses which screened his delicate and restless eyes .”(23,24). This

image perhaps tells us that the glasses are the screen that partition his

vision from the vision of others.

Joyce’s intended theme of paralysis is exemplified in the

symbolization of snow. In the story, snow has a major role as it

symbolizes the political situation at the same time where everything was

cold and dead due to the political uncertainty at the time. Snow also

plays a major role as it interprets the reader to be on the alert, as

things at the end are not going to be as smooth as Gabriel had predicted.

This seen in the shift of mood when after the party had concluded, Gabriel

and his wife are heading towards the hotel and he’s in a very romantic mood

and looking forward to a night of romance. On the way, snow suggests that

things are not going to be so smooth. “The morning was still dark. A dark

yellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky seemed to

be descending. It was slushy underfoot; and only streaks and patches of

snow lay on the roofs, on parapets of the quay and on the area railings”

(51). The snow at the end of the story takes a different form. As when

Gabriel realizes that his wife Gretta has really been thinking about

someone else while he thought that all her thought’s would be about him,

especially at the moment where he is in a romantic state of mind. His

world comes hurdling down when Gretta informs him that she has been

thinking about her life when she was an adolescent and had a seventeen

year old boy who was madly in love with her. Despite the fact that he was

suffering from tuberculosis, he waited in the rain just to have a glimpse

of her. This aggravated his condition and eventually he died. ” I think

he died for me .” “A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer as if, at

that hour when he had hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictive

being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in it’s vague

world” (57). At this moment Gabriel realizes that he has failed as a

husband and that his ideas about love and relationships were all wrong and

he was not as perfect as he thought he was. ” A man had died for her sake.

It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had

played in her life” (58). At this moment when he looks out the window and

sees the snow, it is not slushy anymore but beautiful. He perhaps wants to

go outside and disunite himself from everyone by getting lost in the snow.

Also, as snow is water, which can be a symbol of rebirth, as it can also be

implied that at that very moment he was reborn. “A few light taps upon the

pane made him turn towards the window.” “His soul swooned slowly as he

heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling,

like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (59).

This can also signify Joyce’s intended theme of paralysis as Gabriel is

paralyzed emotionally, as he does not know what is going to happen next.

In conclusion the narrators attitude towards the events is perhaps

how he wants the reader to interpret the events. The narrator perhaps

wants to tell the reader despite all the tension at that time, the people

in Dublin still want to forget the problem and enjoy at least on New Years

Day where it can be with their loved ones to relax.

Work Cited

The Dead. Dir. John Houston. Perf. Anjelica Houston, Donal McCann.

Bestron Pictures, 1987

Joyce, James. The Dead. Ed. Daniel R. Scwarz. Cornell University, 1994

Rabinowitz, Peter J. “A Symbol of Something”: Interpretive Vertigo in “The

Dead.” Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1987

Scwarz, Daniel R., ed. The Dead. Cornell University, 1994


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