The Dead


James Joyce

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Themes and Colors
Jealousy and Male Pride Theme Icon
Nostalgia and the Past vs. the Present Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Ireland, Anti-Nationalism, and the Foreign Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Dead, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Jealousy and Male Pride

Throughout “The Dead,” the protagonist Gabriel is strongly influenced by his interactions with women, which often spur jealousy and injure his pride. He places a great deal of emphasis on how women react to him, regardless of whether they are a romantic interest or not. His pride is also nurtured by his strong adherence to his role as a man and his desire to “master” his wife.

Gabriel seems to take a lot of pride…

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Nostalgia and the Past vs. the Present

As with many of the other characters in Dubliners, both Gabriel and Gretta often find themselves paralyzed and unable to take control over their lives. In this case, much of their resulting inaction is due to distraction from the present by their overpowering nostalgic feelings about the past.

Gretta allows her past feelings for Michael Furey to distract her from her current relationship with Gabriel on the night of the party. Meanwhile, as Gabriel…

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“The Dead” deals with both literal and metaphorical death. Additionally, these perceptions of those who have died are often tainted by nostalgia, making it hard for the characters to forget about their glorified memories of the past and begin living in the present.

Much of “The Dead” quite fittingly revolves around dead people and the legacies they leave behind. For both Gabriel and Gretta, the dead have a power greater than those living. The…

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Ireland, Anti-Nationalism, and the Foreign

Gabriel is not happy to be in Dublin, and is taken with the rest of the UK and continental Europe in every way – from the fashion trends to the literature to the vacation destinations. It seems as though Gabriel would seek an escape, like many of the other characters in Dubliners, but he also seems to be in denial about his own dissatisfaction with his life. Instead, his desire for an escape is…

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Women and Society

While this story is written from a male perspective, women play a large role in highlighting the injustices of Dublin society as well as Gabriel’s reliance on the gender roles imposed by society. The most obvious way that Joyce critiques the role of women in 19th-century Dublin is in his critique of the Catholic Church. Aunt Kate expresses her anger towards the Church and pope for banning women from participating in church choirs. She…

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