The Dead

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The caretaker’s daughter who helps attend to the party guests. She seems to have known the family since she was a child, since Gabriel remembers when she was little and “used to sit on the lowest step nursing a rag doll.” Lily has a good relationship with Kate, Julia, and Mary Jane as she rarely makes mistakes. She becomes bitter when Gabriel makes a comment about her being of the age to marry.

Lily Quotes in The Dead

The The Dead quotes below are all either spoken by Lily or refer to Lily. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Jealousy and Male Pride Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Dead published in 1993.
Section 1 Quotes

The girl glanced back at him over her shoulder and said with great bitterness: The men that is now is only palaver and what they can get out of you.
Gabriel coloured as if he felt he had made a mistake and, without looking at her, kicked off his galoshes…

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Gabriel Conroy
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first instance in the text where Gabriel finds his pride wounded by a woman. He has just asked Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, if she has plans to get married soon—and she responds with this bitter condemnation of all men her own age. Gabriel then does not seem to understand that her bitter words may come from her own personal experience with a man and may have nothing to do with him. Instead, Gabriel is wounded by Lily’s remark and even feels the need to compensate her financially, handing her a tip so she is forced to thank him awkwardly. Because Gabriel relies so much on female validation, he is unable to see women as individuals. This is why Gabriel takes Lily’s remark so personally and is unable to imagine how she feels and why. It is not until later in the text, when he begins to understand that his wife has had her own individual experiences outside of their marriage, that he becomes more open to the possibility of seeing women as individuals and relating to them outside of his own pride and need for validation.


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He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers…He would only make himself ridiculous by quoting poetry to them which they could not understand. They would think that he was airing his superior education. He would fail with them just as he had failed with the girl in the pantry.

Related Characters: Gabriel Conroy, Lily
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

Gabriel is worried that if he quotes English poet Robert Browning, who is known to be particularly obscure and difficult to understand, his audience will not understand, and will additionally think he is flaunting his superior education. The fact that Gabriel has chosen an English poet is significant, because he sees everything even slightly foreign as superior. This is also why he doubts his audience’s abilities to understand. He sees his fellow Dubliners as ignorant and less cultured, or perhaps even less intelligent.

It becomes clear that Gabriel’s pride is greatly influenced not only by women, but also by his intellectualism. Gabriel draws the parallel himself, predicting that his speech will “fail” just as his efforts to interact with and perhaps compliment Lily had also “failed.”

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Lily Character Timeline in The Dead

The timeline below shows where the character Lily appears in The Dead. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Death Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon the midst of Kate and Julia Morkan’s annual Christmas party, with the caretaker’s daughter Lily taking the male party guest’s coats, while Julia and Kate attend to the women’s coats.... (full context)
Jealousy and Male Pride Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
...who often arrives late and drunk. When Gabriel finally arrives, along with his wife Gretta, Lily takes his coat, which is covered with snow from outside. Lily asks if it is... (full context)