THE DEAD (title):
Joyce completed this story in Rome in 1907; it was the last to be written. Because of the content of some of the dialogue in the story, we can assume it took place in the first week of January in 1904, probably between January 2nd (Saturday) and January 6th (Wednesday). The characters speak of the party as taking place after New Year's Eve but still during Christmas time, which would last until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany (Twelfth Night). The date of 1904 is accepted because of they talk about Pope Pius X's recent (November,1903) Motu Proprio.
One of the most popular and well known books of poetry at the time was Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies, written during the period 1807-34. It is generally conceded that the title of this story comes from a poem in that volume:
Oh, ye Dead! oh, ye Dead! whom we know by the light you give
From your cold gleaming eyes, though you move like men who live.
Why leave you thus your graves,
In far off fields and waves,
Where the worm and the sea-bird only know your bed,
To haunt this spot where all
Those eyes that wept your fall,
And the hearts that wail'd you, like your own, lie dead?
It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan;
And the fair and the brave whom we lov'd on earth are gone,
But still thus even in death
So sweet the living breath
Of the fields and the flow'rs in our youth we wander9d o9er
That ere, condemn'd, we go
To freeze mid Hecla's* snow,
We would taste it awhile, and think we live once more!
(*Hecla is a volcano in Iceland.)
In choosing this name Joyce wants the reader to make the associations that the flower has with: 1) death (it is frequently used at funerals); 2) the Archangel Gabriel (it is symbolic of this guardian of the gates of death); and 3) Easter, and thus with rebirth. The reader will want to decide whether or not there is a rebirth at the end of this story.
run off her feet:
A fine example of stylistic infection, in which the personality of the character being written about begins to influence the author's choice of words and rhythms. The correct word would be "figuratively," but to say "literally" is common among many people, particularly those with Lily's minimal education.
well for her:
A common Irish phrase for "fortunate for her."
Miss Kate and
Joyce is partially basing these women on two actual Dubliners, the Misses Flynn, sisters who presided over a musical academy. Joyce also gives Kate characteristics of his own Aunt Callahan.
Only the very best houses had indoor bathrooms. Although Leopold Bloom's house in Ulysses has an indoor and outdoor toilet (Bloom prefers the outdoor one), that house does not have a bath.
always a great affair:
Note that the voice telling the story is no longer Lily's, but rather the voice of the people of a certain Dublin class who knew about and attended parties where their fellow guests would be, as they are at this party, writers, educators, musicians, lovers of the "finer" things Dublin has to offer.
Some years previous to writing this story Joyce had begun to study Scandinavian languages, at first in order to write an adulatory letter to Ibsen, so he perhaps chooses their name because morke is 'darkness' in Danish.
A quay on the River Liffey, the river that runs through Dublin, opposite the quay that is called Usher's Island. Joyce wrote this story while living in Rome and, as it is a tribute to Irish hospitality, he is engaging in some intricate allusions to his own family as well as to the family of the real musical sisters who lived in the house on Usher's Island, a house that is still standing. The family name of the actual sisters was Flynn, and since the fictional sisters refer to their brother as Pat, then his name would be Patrick Flynn (the last name of the actual sisters), which was the name of Joyce's maternal grandfather. This is a complicated mixture of fiction and reality. The actual sisters, as well as the sisters in the story, lived upstairs. The ground floor was occupied by M. Smith & Son, who were seed and grain merchants, and W.J. Smith, a corn merchant. The Usher's Island area was both then, and in recent times, a rather dismal neighborhood.
A factor is an agent who transacts business for others.
thirty years ago
if it was a day:
Another example of the conversational style of Dubliners that takes part in Joyce's narration.
Joyce is writing this story when he is twenty-four years old; his mother had died three years before, and he pays homage to her memory by giving her name to a character who plays the piano, as did his mother.
Mary Jane is the organist at St. Mary's Church in Haddington Road, which is in one of the affluent Dublin neighborhoods.
The Royal Irish Academy of Music, formerly the Ancient Concert Rooms, which were founded as a place for concerts by the Antient Concerts Society in 1843. Joyce sang at a recital there when he was twenty-two.
Kingstown was the name (under British rule) of the major Dublin port located some six miles south of Dublin; it is now called Dun Laoghaire. Within walking distance south of Dun Laoghaire one finds the Martello Tower where Joyce lived for a few days in 1904 and which he used as the setting of the opening episode of Ulysses. Dalkey, where Stephen teaches at the boy's school is Ulysses, is a short distance south of the Tower.
Readers of Joyce consider the short bus ride from Dublin to the Tower (and the Joyce museum) both a sightseeing experience and an homage. The Irish Tourist Office in Dublin sells an inexpensive map of Dublin which includes important landmarks as well as a guide for those who want to trace for themselves the territory covered by Bloom in Ulysses. (As place names and distances can be important in Joyce's work, the beginning reader is advised to acquire a large map that includes Dublin and environs.) Readers of Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses can find helpful maps in Gifford  and Gifford .
Adam and Eve's:
The Franciscan Church of St. Francis of Assisi -- familiarly known as Adam and Eve's -- near Usher's Island, occurs in the opening words of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, where it becomes Eve and Adam's.
The sirloin is of course an expensive cut, and good everyday tea sold for one-fourth of this price.
Another example of a character's voice becoming the author's voice. "Back answers" would be tart or short tempered responses.
Gabriel and James Joyce share some characteristics, and Joyce may well be presenting us with a picture of what he and his life would have been like had he remained in Dublin. (Note that Gretta's roots are in the west of Ireland, as were his wife Nora's.
The name Gabriel, in Hebrew, means "man of God" -- in tradition, an angel of death but also, as in Milton's Paradise Lost (IV) one of the guards of heaven. Gabriel is considered to be a comfort to man, whereas his counterpart, Michael (whose namesake appears at the end of the story) is the church militant; the name Michael in Hebrew translates "who is like God." The Archangel Gabriel announces the coming of John the Baptist to Zacharias ( Luke 1:11-20 ) and of the birth of the Christ child to the Virgin Mary ( Luke 1:26-38 ).
Joyce takes Gabriel's name from a novel by the nineteenth-century American writer, Bret Harte (1836-1902): Gabriel Conroy. This has been a puzzle for Joyceans, since the character as well as the sometimes sentimental and always adventurous aspects of the novel seem to have no connection to Joyce's story (other than a descriptive paragraph quoted below); the title character of Harte's novel is a robust outdoorsman, a California Sierra's gold miner who becomes rich and who is embroiled in all manner of complications with women. In one of the episodes he pretends to be guilty of a crime he thinks his wife committed (she didn't) in order to save her. But Joyce seems to have been strongly influenced by the images in the opening paragraphs of the novel:
Snow. Everywhere. As far as the eye could reach -- fifty miles, looking southward from the highest white peak -- filling ravines and gulches, and dropping from the walls of canyons in white shroud-like drifts, fashioning the dividing ridge into the likeness of a monstrous grave, hiding the bases of giant pines, and completely covering young trees and larches, rimming with porcelain the bowl-like edges of still, cold lakes, and undulating in motionless white billows to the edge of the distant horizon. Snow lying everywhere over the California Sierras on the 15th day of March 1848, and still falling.
It had been snowing for ten days: snowing in finely granulated powder, in damp spongy flakes, in thin, feathery plumes, snowing from a leaden sky steadily, snowing fiercely, shaken out of purple-black clouds in white flocculent masses, or dropping in long level lines, like white lances from the tumbled and broken heavens. But always silently!
turn up screwed:
Drunk, or fast on his way to becoming drunk.
Used as both hello and goodbye.
Gabriel frequently uses pretentious and psuedo-elegant words in an attempt to distance himself from Irish culture and take on what he considers to be a continental (i.e. European) air.
Joyce does not have to strain for symbols and allusions, but finds them in natural phrases and objects. Here, a common expression carries with it overtones of life and death appropriate to this story.
Note how Gabriel is presented as someone who tries to rid himself of nature, in contrast to the sympathetic and romantic Michael at the conclusion of the story who is presented as standing out in the rain. Throughout the story Gabriel observes the snow and the weather through windows, and we learn that he makes his family wear goloshes.
Snow is unusual in Dublin. Since snow is significant throughout the story and especially as a final image, its meaning must be interpreted. There are conflicting views of its symbolic meaning in this story, and we will deal with these in the annotations to the concluding paragraphs.
Made of rubber, to put on over regular shoes.
A nice touch on Joyce's part to suggest the childlike, even infantile, character of the two women. And for those who know German, this is a nice Klang (echo) association with "Tod" (death).
must be perished
Again, a common expression furnishes associative effects.
as the mail:
Astonishing to us nowadays but the turn-of-the-century Dublin equivalent of email: five pickups of mail and five deliveries each day!
called out Gabriel
from the dark:
In his later works, Ulysses in particular, Joyce is never quite as obvious in his subliminal suggestions as he is here -- the implication being that Gabriel's life is in the dark. We learn that this is indeed the case with the revelations in the concluding scene of the story.
She pronounces his name as "Con-uh-roy."
The men that
is now is only all palaver:
Lily's reply is an ungrammatical -- plural noun and singular verb -- but common usage among those of Lily's educational background. Palaver means "idle chatter", particularly when the aim is to charm, flatter, or beguile, and it is unclear whether this, or the sexual suggestion that follows, is what makes the remark so upsetting to Gabriel's ears.
Gabriel is wounded, perhaps because of the harshness of Lily's reply, perhaps because he recognizes that the words could apply to him. Throughout the story Gabriel comes under accusations of being all words and no action, especially from Miss Ivors. The reader may come to feel this way while reading Gabriel's speech at the dinner table, and, of course, as the ending of the story reveals that Gabriel, as compared to the dead Michael Furey, appears to be all words and no action.
In the following sentences, through the phrase "flicked lustre" in the next paragraph, note the many words suggesting that Gabriel is the Archangel: among them, "scintillated", "bright", and "glossy".
The English poet Robert Browning (1812-89) was fashionable at the time the story takes place (though his poetry was considered difficult) and in succeeding decades he was much drawn to European subjects for his poetry. This, perhaps, accounts for part of his attraction for Gabriel. Joyce himself called Browning a "Master," in a review in the Daily Express in 1903. The poet Ezra Pound was also drawn to Browning because of the presentation of characters in swift and energetic verse.
Because they were written by an Irish poet, Thomas Moore. As noted above, these were written between 1807 and 1834 and were to be found in every Irish household.
Ports and Docks:
As the title indicates, a commission in charge of supervision of Dublin shipping. In earlier versions of the story Joyce had used "Post Office" instead of Ports and Docks; Joyce wants to convey the sisters' ideas of superior social status.
As noted earlier, Joyce gives Gretta some of the characteristics of his wife Nora, particularly Nora's origins in the West of Ireland as well as her strength and determination. (With the appearance of the memory of Michael Furey at the end of the story, we will examine a relevant occasion for Joyce's envy and anger upon learning of one of Nora's previous suitors.)
TAKE A CAB BACK TO
The village where Gretta and Gabriel live is on Dublin Bay five miles southeast of Dublin, near Kingstown; there was once a monastery there, hence the name. In 1904 the last train from Westland Row Station was at 11:15 p.m.
A village three miles south of the center of Dublin, where Sandymount Strand meets Merion strand. The area can be quite windy. Joyce's spelling here takes the "Uncle Charlie principle" a step further, conveying Gabriel's strained pun.
With the mention of Eva, the second child, later in the sentence, we find another suggestion that Joyce could have turned into Gabriel; like Jim and Nora Joyce, the Conroys have a boy and a girl.
More important, perhaps, is the figure of Gabriel's covering the eyes of his own child. This is the third appearance of the word "eyes" in the story, the first being the description of Gabriel's "delicate and restless eyes" and the second Aunt Julia's "slow eyes". The word appears 29 times in "The Dead," and figures prominantly in the Thomas Moore poem mentioned above. Joyce clearly wants to draw attention to the meaning of the eyes, for the characters and for us, in a story about what it means to be alive and to be dead. We'll have more to say about Joyce's use of "eyes" later, and the "covering" theme is repeated in the discussion of galoshes that follows.
Here it is useful to note that throughtout Dubliners, Joyce calls our attention to his themes with repetition, as well as substitutions that strike the thoughtful reader as slightly odd. For example, after we learn that Tom's eyes are covered, we're told that Eva "hates the sight" of stirabout, (oatmeal), when it's surely the taste she hates.
Nowadays galoshes (overshoes) are usually plastic, but they were first made of rubber, and thus the word derives from the Malaysian for gum tree -- getah percha.
REMINDS HER OF CHRISTY MINSTRELS
Minstrel shows, which featured whites in black face, were enormously popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth century; they consisted of sketches, songs, and dances; one of the numbers being the Golliwog Cake Walk. The origin of "golliwog" is unknown, perhaps a variation of "polliwog," but in Frances K. Upton's illustrations (1895) of the Golliwog book, it was a grotesque black doll, hence a grotesque person. Does Gretta pronounce galoshes in such a way that it sounds close to golliwog?
Aunt Kate obviously wants to change the subject. Why? Is she far ahead of her time and offended, as we would be, by the Christy Minstrels and especially by the word golliwog?
The Conroys can obviously afford one of the best hotels in Dublin; some rooms today in the original part of the hotel retain their fireplaces. An obligatory visit, even if just for afternoon tea in the lobby, for any Joycean visiting Dublin. In the center of town, on O'Connell Street (originally Sackville Street).
Joyce frequently used real people with their actual names , a true innovation in fiction; it was for this reason that publishers were worried about publishing his work, fearing libel. The library scene in Ulysses (Scylla and Charybdis) is noteworthy in that the major participants, among them George Russell (the poet) and Mr. Best (a librarian) are actual people. In other cases, Joyce barely disguised the living person, even using the same last or first name. In Dublin, Browne is a distinctly protestant name -- the first Protestant Archbishop of Dublin (1536??) was George Browne -- and Dubliners, then as now, are careful to distinguish between Catholics and Protestants. Mr. Browne gets his name from an actual protestant professor of music named Mervyn Archdall Browne; he was married to a first cousin of Joyce's mother. Joyce may also be having another private smile, in that he would have known that Clongowes Wood College, the first (elementary) school he attended, was originally named Castle Browne, and that it had a ghost whose name was Ulysses -- an Austrian Jacobite Count. (As a young schoolboy Joyce had written an essay on Ulysses in response to an assignment to write about your favorite hero.)
Apparently Lily's father, who is described only as the caretaker throughout the story. This fact lends support, perhaps, to the interpretation of the story which views all the characters are already dead, performing a sort of funereal ritual as the caretaker looks on.
Joyce's use of this rather dramatic, uncommon term for "food" raises interesting questions. Unlike "food" it derives from the Latin vivere (to live), but if it is an example of stylistic inflection it is not clear which character would use such a word -- perhaps Mr. Browne or the caretaker? The repetitition of the equally formal term "sideboard" may suggest a banquet (or funeral) setting of an earlier time.
What we would call today a soft drink.
Again we wonder who is speaking here. Perhaps the succession of somewhat archaic terms (sideboard, viand, thither, and later "filled out" and "goodly measure") is meant to (re)construct the speech of Mr. Browne, or another character from whom we haven't heard (e.g. the caretaker).
A mystery. Has he made up these people? Did they allude to some popular joke that is lost to us?
LOW DUBLIN ACCENT
Browne's use of a lower class (street) accent could be considered an affront to the young ladies, and in retrospect we may come to feel that the earlier stylistic inflections were meant to show him in a pompous light. Throughout this scene Mr. Browne is becoming more and more inebriated and something of an embarrassment to everyone.
Probably a combination of purple, yellow and white after the flower Viola tricolor (also called "heartsease"!), this red-faced woman -- do we ever find our her name? -- dressed in pansy seems the antidote to Mr. Browne, and perhaps to the funereal tempo of the evening as well.
Originally a card game played by four persons with forty cards (the 8s, 9s, and 10s were removed), here it refers to a square dance in which four couples (three are identified here) engage in five separate figures; a complicated dance.
One can never be sure how much Joyce wants us to look up words or trace etymoligies, but here it is interesting to note that, according to the OED, another ealier use of the English word "quadrille," contemporary with its use to denote a dance, is as "one of four groups of horsemen taking part in a tournament or carousel, each being distinguished by special costume or colours." This military usage is echoed the description of Mary Jane's leading "her recruits," but in the dance we see in "The Dead," is anything but colorful.
OF LADIES TONIGHT
One can only speculate about the number of people at the party -- up to forty according to some estimates (although that seems high for a house that size and nowhere near that number are named).
MR. BARTELL D'ARCY
Offstage throughout, a tenor whose singing later on leads to the significant events at the conclusion of the story. He is the subject of some ribald gossip and remarks in Joyce's Ulysses. This is again a case of Joyce barely disguising a contemporary figure, in this case a young singer named P.J. D'Arcy whose stage name was Bartholomew D'Arcy.
The first figure of the quadrille (there are five in all), and Mary Jane's leading her "recruits" from the room seems to casts (or refocus) a laborious light on the proceedings. The lively, colorful call for the quadrille is further displaced by the colorless, trance-like entrance of Aunt Julia.
O NO, HARDLY NOTICEABLE
Gabriel is being polite here, but it's indicative of his general desire to avoid conflict that he tries to downplay what is clearly rude and even confrontational behavior.
Signed documents provided by temperance organizations in which one gave a religious oath to stop drinking.
Joyce continues to call our attention to the metaphorical meanings of "deadness." In this portrayal of the grotesque Freddy Malins, we find someone clearly intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness, his pale bloated appearance accompanied by automatic actions and reactions that even fail mechanically (as in the "kink" the produces the laugh prematurely).
As the next phrase suggests, the piece had to demonstrate the pianist's skills as a music teacher. In reporting Gabriel's dislike for the piece, and his finding the formal runs without true melody, Joyce gives a hint that Gabriel is more complex than mot of the characters that inhabit "The Dead."
ROMEO AND JULIET
The reference to the picture of the balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (act II, scene ii) is proleptic; it foreshadows the scene Gretta will recount to Gabriel of Michael Furey standing below her window. The use of prolepsis was to become a major technique with Joyce in his later works as he uses words, images, moods, and other devices to anticipate or lay the groundwork for future scenes. Wagner's use of leitmotif is the musical equivalent of this device.
MURDERED PRINCES IN THE TOWER
Richard III, King of England from 1483-1485, may have been responsible for the murder of his two nephews in order to protect his ascension to the throne. See Shakespeare's Richard III. The connection between this Shakespearian image and the preceeding one is difficult to see, but it prompts us to remember the fact that in Romeo and Juliet too there were two princes murdered (Mercurio and Tibult), and perhaps this is the connection that Gabriel thinks about, a connection between love and death that Joyce projects onto the wall of the room.
OF PURPLE TABINET
Tabinet is damask-like, similar to poplin. This waistcoat carries heavy emotional overtones for Joyce; the actual one he had as a child is in the Joyce Museum in the Martello Tower, Sandycove, near Dublin. It figures prominently in Ulysses, when we learn that Molly Bloom buried her infant son Rudy in a wooly waistcoat she had knitted for him (see Ulysses 18.1448). In the "Oxen of the Sun" episode, Bloom recalls having seen the boy Stephen in a "linseywoolsey" waistcoat (14.1371) and in Bloom's vision at the end of Circe, Rudy appears dressed in a waistcoat (15.4967).
We know this was one of Joyce's father's favorite expressions [source?]
A long narrow mirror, usually fixed to the wall between two windows.
A somewhat religious name: Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.
Another homage to Joyce's own childhood, as one of the memorable photos of the six and l/2 year-old Joyce before he left for boarding school (Clongowes Wood College) shows him dressed in a sailor suit. (See Ellmann's James Joyce, Plate I, facing page 110.)
NAMES OF HER SONS
The mother of Gabriel and Constantine has done quite well for her sons, naming one for an Archangel and the other for a Roman Emperor. Is Joyce once again jousting with his brother Stanislaus (as he does so consistently in Finnegans Wake) by turning him into a priest? (If so, the description is to gain further irony when later in life Stanislaus entitles his story of life with his brother "My Brother's Keeper.") In any case, there is a Father Conroy in Ulysses who not only conducts the services for the men's temperance retreat in the Star of the Sea church on the Sandymount strand while Gerty MacDowell and Leopold Bloom are engaged in their sublimated courtship in the Nausicaa episode (13.490) but who also heard Paddy Dignam's last confession (10.1172). And, there was an actual Father Conroy in a Dublin church in 1904. The great late William York Tyndall, who pioneered Joyce studies in this country, was fond of saying in lectures that all of Joyce's work was one work, and Joyce did apparently take delight in weaving and interweaving images, places, dates, and real and fictional people throughout his works. Indeed, on pages 186-7 of Finnegans Wake he disguises all fifteen of the stories in Dubliners. For example, "The Boarding House" becomes "boardelhouse," "Eveline" becomes "eveling," "An Encounter" becomes "wrongcountered," and "A Painful Case" becomes "the painful sake." (On page 229 of the Wake he plays similar games with twelve of the eighteen Odyssean designations of the episodes in Ulysses.)
On the Irish sea, about twenty miles north of Dublin.
An overseeing body, not a university, that established standards and curricula for institutions of higher learning in Dublin; it was created by the University Education Act in 1879. The University favored English and Protestant traditions and controlled the offerings of Catholic University, Dublin. This reference is one of many that indicate Gabriel's estrangement from his own country, and foreshadows the coming exchange with Miss Ivors. (See also the entry on The University Question below).
OPPOSITION TO HIS MARRIAGE
Joyce may be alluding here to the disapproval by his mother's family of her marriage to his father. He is certainly drawing our attention to the relationship between Gabriel and Gretta, which will be a focus of discussion below.
The full expression is "country cute and city clever" -- "cute" is used in derogatory sense.
Joyce wrote this story in Rome, and was homesick for Dublin and Irish hospitality in particular. Consequently, "The Dead" is the only story in the collection that contains any complimentary pictures of Dublin; this accounts for the numerous Joyce family associations that are being made with the characters in the story. Here Joyce may be referring to his sister Poppie, who took care of their mother in her final illness, as well as to his mother, who had taken care of her husband's mother.
A quadrille for more than four couples. Even more than "quadrille" the term evokes military associations that cast a primitive if not predatory light on the four young men in the doorway.
As a college student, Joyce had known many Irish nationalists, at one time even participating (though briefly) in a group that was studying Gaelic (the native Irish language). In Stephen Hero (and, to a lesser extent, Portrait) we meet Emma Clery (E_C_9 [??]) with whom Stephen is in love; Miss Ivors combines characteristics of Emma Clery and those of the Sheehy sisters, Kathleen and Hanna, who were ardent nationalists as well as propagandists for women's rights. Hanna wrote a noteworthy essay for the New Ireland Review entitled "Women and the University Question," and Kathleen was to become the mother of Conor Cruise O'Brien, a prolific Irish writer. Hanna later married Joyce's friend and classmate, Francis Skeffington, who combined his name with hers as they became Sheehy-Skeffington.
NOT WEAR A LOW-CUT BODICE
Her severe (for a Christmas party) dress matches her serious and severe personality. On the other hand, it also sets her apart, to her advantage, from the women we've met so far.
A Nationalist enthusiasm for Celtic language, history, and literature began in the 1890s and is reflected here by the wearing of reproductions of Celtic jewelry; one of these brooches carried the inscription "Tir agus Teanga": "Country and Language".
A CROW TO PLUCK
The Irish equivalent of "a bone to pick."
Another popular Irish exclamation, implying uninformed gullibility.
A respected and comprehensive newspaper, but one that was decidedly pro-British in its positions. Joyce published book reviews in the paper between 1902 and 1904.
In an earlier version of the story, Joyce had written "rag".
The appellation comes from the fact that Ireland lies to the west of England; the highly derogatory term referred to inhabitants of Ireland whose allegiance was more to England than to Ireland.
This was a considerable sum of money, the weekly earnings of many workers in Ireland.
The names of various bookstores along the quays of the Liffey in the center of Dublin.
WAS ABOVE POLITICS
This may be Gabriel's (naive) view, but it was not Joyce's. The stories in Dubliners reflect and take seriously the contemporary political situation in Ireland (see especially "Ivy Day in the Committee Room").
TURN TO CROSS
A reference to a particular point in the dance, but of course Gabriel's turn to "cross" Miss Ivors has already come and he has missed, or decided to forego it. Gabriel is described interestingly here as "unresponsive," which describes him too well in the scenes that follow. When Miss Ivors prompts him to "cross now" in the next sentence, we can't help but find irony in the phrase; Gabriel seems unable to decide both whether and when to engage himself.
A complicated situation in Ireland throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the topic known as the "University Question" was originally the problem of the nature of a college education for Catholic young men in Ireland and later the related problem of the education of young Irish women. Acceptance of women into Irish universities was accomplished in 1903 (long before that of their English sisters -- it was not until 1948 that Cambridge accepted women). The argument throughout the nineteenth century concerned how much Ireland herself, and her Catholic religion, should be a part of a university education. English academic control of all universities (Trinity in Dublin, as well as Oxford and Cambridge) required that all students (including Irish Catholics) pass examinations in Protestant theology until 1871. Cardinal Newman was allowed to establish Catholic University in Dublin in 1850, but it was bound to fail as the British authorities allowed the University to offer courses but not degrees; without the degree, the student was hampered in the furtherance of a career. Catholic University became University College, Dublin (the college Joyce attended), but it was under the control of the recently formulated Royal University (the English Protestant controlled supervising and degree granting authority), which weakened the offerings, particularly those having to do with Catholicism and Ireland. Nothing, apparently, was to interfere with the primacy of Trinity College.
As an undergraduate at University College, Joyce was deeply involved in both aspects of the University Question: the nature of a college education in Catholic Ireland, and the admission of women. In 1901 he and his friend Francis Skeffington published a pamphlet, "Two Essays," the one by Skeffington arguing the woman question and the one by Joyce the question of Irish and modern literature.
That this topic makes Gabriel feel more at ease than their earlier discussion may have to do with the comparatively impersonal nature of the academic issue.
Dublin and the surrounding countryside was under heavy English control throughout the nineteenth century (and beyond); the area was known as the English Pale, and gave rise to the expression "beyond the pale" -- meaning, in this case, not terribly sophisticated or intelligent. Western Ireland was rural, mountainous, and Gaelic (Irish) was spoken by more people as their first language than in the eastern part. Thus, with the revival in the late nineteenth century of interest in Irish literature and language, the west became both realistically and symbolically the very idea of Irish roots and nationalism. Nowhere was this truer than in the County of Galway and the Aran Isles which lay off the coast. J.M. Synge's play, "Riders to the Sea" is the quintessential play about the Aran Isles and went far toward making the area famous as the heart of the Gaelic. It is for this reason that Joyce's character Gretta and his wife Nora both come from his area of Ireland: it represents the true Ireland.
This is probably another homage to the touching and sympathetic Davin from Portrait (Madden in Stephen Hero) since this cherished college friend of Joyce was named Clancy, and he is presented in both of the works in which he appears as an ardent nationalist. (He was to become Mayor of Limerick and was killed by the British in 1921 in the War of Independence.)
A character in the story "A Mother" in Dubliners.
There are four provinces in Ireland: Connacht, Ulster, Munster, and Leinster; Connacht is in the northwest, and includes Galway county. Again, Joyce is using his wife Nora's background for Gretta, and once more stressing the differences between the Irish nationalist and tradionalist roots to be found in the west as opposed to the east. Again, the symbolism of the west is given emphasis and will be confronted in the final paragraph of the story. (In a first version of "The Dead," Joyce wrote "She's half-Connacht.") It was another Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, who gave instruction on the pronunciation of Connacht in the Preface to his "John Bull's Other Island" (1904): Gaelic pronunciation rhymes with "bonnet" whereas Connaught, the Anglicized spelling, rhymes with "untaught." Shaw was, of course, calling attention to widespread disdain of things Irish by the British.
In a first version of the story, Joyce had used the somewhat more stilted "previously arranged."
Since the revival of interest in Celtic history and tradition in Ireland in the nineteenth century, much emphasis has been given to learning and preserving Irish (Gaelic). It is one of the most difficult languages to learn, since it is so highly inflected -- not only the endings of words (as in Latin) but also the beginning and middle of words; moreover, the number of irregular nouns and verbs is formidable. Nonetheless, citizens from all walks of economic and educational levels have been devoted to acquiring the language. To learn the language it is almost obligatory to spend time in the Gaelic-speaking areas (primarily the western provinces). Many fear that Irish -- like Latin -- is doomed as a spoken language.
GO VISITING TOGETHER
Part of the dance, in which a couple crosses over to another couple.
THE LONG CHAIN
Another formation in the dance.
In an earlier version, Joyce had written "Galway." The change might be especially significant because of the Galway image in the hotel room scene between Gabriel and Gretta later, an image that might be less striking if preceded by an inconsequential use here.
In an earlier version, Joyce had written "row" here and "There was no row" as Gabriel's reply.
Originally, Joyce had written "she said."
That she says "fisher" rather than "fisherman" may be a biblical influence. See Matthew 4:18-19 where the brothers Peter and Andrew are called "fishers," and Jesus says he will make them "fishers of men" (a frequently quoted biblical passage that became part of everyday usage).
A BEAUTIFUL BIG BIG FISH
Originally, Joyce had written "a beautiful big fish and the man in the hotel cooked it." The change gives us a sense of the rhythm of Mrs. Malins speech, even as she isn't directly quoted.
OF THE WINDOW
Although this is the appropriate name for the narrow part of the window recess on the side, Joyce uses it here to draw our attention Gabriel's discomfort with the people around him.
TAPPED THE COLD PANE
Changed from "tipped." Joyce wants this to be proleptic for both the sound of the gravel Michael Furey throws against Gretta's bedroom window and the way Gabriel hears the snow coming against the hotel window: "A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window."
(In this light it is interesting -- and perhaps puzzling -- to find that the word "tip" becomes highly significant and symbolically charged in Joyce's later work, Finnegans Wake. Among its many associations are those with Kate, the barmaid, and the sound of a branch hitting the bedroom windowpane signaling the coming morning and the conclusion of the novel.)
BY THE RIVER
Joyce will use this cluster again years later in Finnegans Wake, which concludes with the words "A way a lone a last a loved a long the." In order to complete the sentence -- and the circle that is that novel -- one must return to the first word of the novel: "riverrun."
THROUGH THE PARK
Dublin's Phoenix Park (opened in 1747) is the largest city park in the world, comprising more than 1700 acres; parts of it have more in common with an untouched woodland or forest than a city park, and visitors are surprised to see herds of deer roaming as though in the wild. Phoenix derives from Feenisk which was originally the Irish "Fionn-uisge" (white-water), the name of a spring located there. The Anglicized version of the name thus becomes, though not in original intent, associated with the myth of the Phoenix, the bird that is reborn and rises from its own flames. Joyce thus uses the park as a symbol of death and resurrection (rebirth) -- particularly in Finnegans Wake. The pub of the central male figure in the Wake is located across the street from the park, and significant events are overlaid with resurrection symbolism because they take place in the park. In both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce makes considerable use of an event that occurred the year of his birth (1882): the murder of two British officials in charge of Irish affairs by the "Invincibles." The Invincibles were possibly a group within the Sinn Fein, the organization that advocated violence in the fight for Irish freedom from the British; in any case, the situation caused difficulties for Charles Parnell, who was striving for independence through political means. (See annotations for Ivy Day in the Committee Room for analysis of the Irish political situation at the time of these stories.)
WOULD BE LYING
As noted earlier, we will delay a discussion of the ambiguous symbolism of snow until we reach the final paragraph of the story.
A 205 foot obelisk, said to be the world's tallest, just inside the main gate of Phoenix Park; it is visible from the front steps of the house in which this story takes place. This tribute to the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley, 1769-1852) erected in 1817 by political cohorts who shared his positions is full of ironic meanings (and Joyce will use them again with force in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake), as the Duke was a staunch advocate of the British policies of total control over the Irish.
HOSPITALITY, SAD MEMORIES
At the time of the writing of "The Dead," Joyce and Nora were down and out in Rome, and Gabriel's speech might well reflect Joyce's own homesickness for Irish hospitality, as well as sad memories about his family and the death of his mother.
THE THREE GRACES
When Gabriel later gives his speech, we see that he compares his musical aunts, Kate and Julia, and Mary Jane, to the Three Graces. Given Joyce's early interest in Greek mythology, he would have known details about the Three Graces, but it is difficult to determine whether or not there is more here than Gabriel's attempt at a felicitous comparison. In any case, the Three Graces (Agalaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia) are the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, and together they personify grace, beauty, and the enjoyment of life. They accompany the Muses, as well as Aphrodite and Eros (love) and are responsible for what is best in art and for the quality of charm that is found in love and in life.
This son of Priam, King of Troy, and his wife Hecuba had been exposed on a mountainside as an infant because his mother had a dream that he would be the cause of the destruction of Troy. The goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all stake a claim to the apple inscribed "for the most beautiful" that had been thrown down by Eris, the goddess of Discord. The three goddesses select Paris, then a shepherd who was considered the most handsome man in the world and not yet reunited with his family, to decide among them. Hera promised him power, Athena heroic fame, but he awarded the apple to Aphrodite, who promised him the most beautiful woman in the world -- Helen, the wife of Menelaus. On a visit to Sparta, Paris abducted Helen (with or without her consent depending on the Greek author you have in mind) and thus caused the Trojan War, as Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus and other warriors come to rescue her. In his speech, Gabriel says that he will not attempt to play the role of Paris and judge which of the three women (Mary Jane and two aunts) has the most sterling qualities. Some Joyceans consider that, in choosing a great and heroic Greek epic, The Odyssey, as the subtext of his Ulysses, Joyce's intent is to highlight and throw into contrast the nobility of Odysseus and the Greeks when placed opposite the pettiness of the concerns of Leopold Bloom and the citizens of Dublin. I rather think that the point is to illuminate both the Greeks and the Dubliners, particularly through the use of humor in what Joyce himself considered a comic novel. Perhaps what he is up to here is also for comic effect, with even Gabriel perhaps aware of what a ludicrous Paris he is.
This depiction of Gabriel rehersing and fondly recalling his own words, lends support to an interpretation of Gabriel as a rather pretentious, self-absorbed and alienated young man. But Joyce may be using Gabriel's pretentious words against him, as a prolepsis for the torment that will be caused Gabriel by a song (Lass of Aughrim) later that evening.
FOR THE BRIDAL
This is from Bellini's I Puritani di Scozia (The Puritan, 1835, performed in Dublin in 1837, based on Sir Walter Scott's Old Mortality); the words are by George Linley, using music from the Bellini opera, and it is a rather flowery and melodramatic English adaptation of an Act I song, "A Chaplet of Roses." Many consider that Joyce could have been a professional singer, as he had a fine tenor voice (though he could not read music). Throughout his life Joyce was devoted to the music of song, even disdaining pure orchestral compositions as too far removed from the original stimulus for music: the human voice and emotions. Does he have a purpose in choosing this particular aria? The involuted and complicated plot gives no hint, as it involves a bride playfully draping her wedding veil over the head of a prisoner, the widow of Charles I, which leads to the prisoner's escape. (The story takes place before Cromwell brings an end to the Civil War, and involves a Romeo and Juliet type plot in which a Puritan father wishes to marry his daughter to a Puritan colonel, whereas she prefers a Cavalier who is a Royalist.) As can be seen from the lyrics below, perhaps Joyce is primarily interested in making a contrast (as he does in "Clay" when the unattractive and unmarried Maria sings a song about a wedding) between the singer (the aging Aunt Julia) and the song (young love). The song:
Arrayed for the bridal, in beauty behold her A white wreath entwineth a forehead more fair I envy the zephyrs that softly enfold her enfold her And play with the locks of her beautiful hair May life to her prove full of sunshine and love full of love yes! yes! yes! Who would not love her Sweet star of the morning! shining so bright! Earth9s circle adorning, fair creature of light fair creature of light.
(Those three "yes"s are bound to call to mind the final words of Joyce's Ulysses, which was not written until more than a decade later.)
TO FOLLOW THE
Joyce calls attention to the striking contrast between the youthful voice and the aged face of the singer. But then, one of the meaningful elements of the story is this contrast between youth and age as represented by Gabriel (old before his time), and the perpetually youthful (though dead) Michael Furey.
NEVER WOULD BE SAID BY ME
The verb "to say" had a much earlier meaning: to take direction or advice; i.e., here she is saying that Julia would never take advice (or direction) from her.
THE POPE TO
TURN OUT THE WOMEN
A lively contemporary topic of conversation, as Pope Pius X had only recently (November 22, 1903) decreed on his own accord (i.e., without the advice of cardinals or others in the hierarchy) that the choir in the church was such an essential part of the liturgy itself that women should not be members of the choir. Sopranos and altos would be replaced by boys. A month after this decree the Pope further directed the use of Gregorian chants and objected to the use of the church for concerts. This, according to The Figaroand Irish Gentlewoman, caused some women musicians to lose a "valuable means of livelihood without any compensation," and asked that the Pope devise some means for recompensing their loss. The twenty-two year old Joyce, who all of his life loved choral music, wrote in a letter to his Aunt Josephine on December 32, 1904: "In conclusion I spit upon the image of the tenth Pius." (Selected Letters, p.49)
Commonly used in place of Mary or Marion, as in the case of Molly (Marion) Bloom in Ulysses.
A PICK ITSELF
Have a little of something -- here food.
TWO STEPS UP
She is probably using this as figurative expression meaning "not too far away."
I'LL SEE YOU HOME
Gabriel is certainly polite, and apparently has no hard feelings about the earlier disagreement with Miss Ivors. On the other hand, Joyce's portrayal of the discussion here might suggest that politeness of this sort is evidence of a lack of engagement, of unresponsiveness. Gabriel's ability to respond to the people around him is tested throughout the night, and our interpretation of his responses will determine in large part what we think Joyce is trying to say in the story.
COMICAL GIRL, MOLLY
A friendly, colloquial expression meaning unusual, in this case, independent. Note also the friendliness in Gretta's calling her "Molly" rather than "Miss Ivors."
Irish for "blessing to ye," used as "goodbye." This exchange establishes a connection between Miss Ivors and Gretta that points to questions about the relationship between Gretta and Gabriel. If we think of Miss Ivors as having been one of the few "live" persons at a generally dead party, then perhaps this liveliness is now passed (perhaps ambiguously) to Gretta, in the form of an Irish blessing said with a laugh and a cry.
WHERE ON EARTH IS
Is Joyce having a little joke about the whereabouts of the Archangel?
STAGE TO LET
Available for performance.
FLOCK OF GEESE
Technically, a "gaggle" of geese; Joyce again uses a slightly odd substitution to provide hints about Gabriel's thoughts.
As in Westminster, etc., from the Anglo-Saxon for "monastery." In other words, the jelly was formed into architectural peaks.
Notice the reappearance of military terminology in this paragraph ("rival ends," "sentries to fruit stands"), leading to this comparison of the arrangement to a battle formation.
BROWN AND RED LABELS
Brown indicates that the stout is Guiness; red that the ale is Bass.
LET HIM OR HER SPEAK
From the marriage ceremony.
At that time the company playing at the Theatre Royal was the Moody-Manners Opera Company.
By name and royal patent, founded in the 1630s. A new building was constructed in 1821, burned in 1880, and rebuilt in 1897.
A NEGRO CHIEFTAN SINGING IN THE
SECOND PART OF THE
Pantomime is the silent, bodily acting out of myths, with a Chorus singing the story during an interlude. Later medieval development in Italy saw the formation in popular burlesque of such stock characters as Harlequin, Pantaloon, Columbine, and Scaramouche. In France during the 17th and 18th century the emphasis was on allegorical spectacles featuring classical mythology. The English version of the pantomime focused on popular folk tales (rather than mythology) and featured mime acting, burlesque dialogue, music, and dancing by a Clown and a Harlequin, among others. Pantomime was -- and is -- a popular tradition at Christmas time.
Dubliners have always been avid supporters of both opera and theater. The Gaiety theater, on South King Street, near Stephen's Green, opened in 1871 (the play was Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer).
ONLY A BLACK
The term here is used much the same as it is today in the U.S. -- as an accepted descriptive term rather than a term of derision. Dublin has a long history of support for minority groups, particularly blacks and Jews (the anti-semitic Citizen in the "Cyclops" episode of Ulysses is not typical); the Dublin Negro's Friend Society was founded in 1829.
The source for this opera (1866) by Ambroise Thomas is Goethe's Wilhelm Meister.
A famous soprano in the late nineteenth century.
TIETJENS ... ARAMBURO
Therese Tietjens (1831-77) was an outstanding German soprano.
Ilma deMurzka was a Croatian soprano. [Miss Sinico also sang in the opera in which she made her Dublin debut in 1869. See "A Painful Case," where a major character is Mrs. Sinico for speculations about Joyce's selection of that name.]
Campanini was an Italian tenor, who lived during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Zelia Trebelli (1838-92) was a French mezzo-soprano.
Antonio Giuglini (1827-65) was an Italian tenor. Considered one of the greats, he became insane a year before his death (note the brevity of his life). He was enormously popular in Dublin. (Leopold Bloom had apparently heard him sing. See Ulysses:13.1001.)
Ravelli was an Italian opera singer, active in late nineteenth century.
Antonio Aramburo (1838-1912), was a Spanish tenor.
LET ME LIKE
A SOLDIER FALL
From the opera Maritana, in which the hero manages to switch his death from hanging to the more honorable one of death by firing squad. Joyce, with his ironic sense of humor, insisted that the caricature of him (for the magazine Transition -- the great and influential literary journal devoted to the new in literature) show the music sheet for his aria visible in his pocket.
THEMSELVES THROUGH THE STREETS TO HER HOTEL.
A famous Dublin incident in 1868. The popular German soprano Therese Tietjens had so wowed the audience with her rendition of "The Last Rose of Summer" (Thomas Moore) that after the performance students tied ropes to her carriage and drew it through the streets to the accompaniment of other students shooting off fireworks from rooftops. There was something of a minor melee because of confusion about which hotel she was staying in, but they eventually took her to the right one, the Shelbourne -- still the most elegant traditional hotel in Dublin. After laying down their coats for her to enter the hotel (it had been a wet evening) the students remained outside, and only dispersed after the police spoke to Mlle Tietjens and she agreed to sing once more: "The Last Rose of Summer."
The popular name for a French opera (Le Pardon de Poermel, 1859), notable for the heroine's almost constant fervent and flush singing. (She is insane for much of the plot.)
The opera by Donizetti (1797-1848) from Victor Hugo's play, also popular with sopranos because of the opportunities for flamboyant acting and singing. (The high point of the opera is a banquet scene featuring mass poisoning in which Lucrezia proudly proclaims that she will furnish coffins for the guests.)
Enrico Caruso (1874-1921), the most noted tenor of the first quarter of this century.
Some commentators think Aunt Kate is confused here, that there is no singer by that name, but she might have had in mind an unimportant singer of the period named Parkinson who was a member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company.
ENOUGH FOR YOU
A puzzle, perhaps involving the punch line of a joke, or a play on his name, or perhaps another reference to the minstrel performers of the period.
The popular name for a Cistercian (Trappist) abbey, the Abbey of St Bernard de Trappe, in southeastern Ireland famous as a retreat for the cure of alcoholics.
LIKE THAT IN OUR CHURCH
Mr. Browne is protestant.
SLEPT IN THEIR
An popular exaggeration, perhaps stimulated by the strict rules of the Trappist order (among them, vows of perpetual silence) and the fact they they slept in their habits. (Coffins, however, were not used for burial.)
THEIR LAST END
See the reference to Jacob in the Scriptures, Numbers 23:10: "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
THE SILENCE OF THE TABLE
Since the topic of conversation is coffins, perhaps Joyce is up to his usual sly jokes.
GAZING UP AT THE LIGHTED
This is perhaps an intentional echo of a phrase in the opening sentences of the first story of Dubliners, another story about death: "Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window." Here, however, we notice the intense use of spatial relations (e.g. upturned faces, and upward gazes) to present images of darkness and light, as well as to suggest Gabriel's unspoken thoughts and anxieties.
THAT FLASHED WESTWARD
Proleptic for the final paragraph's ambiguous image of journeying to the west.
OF FIFTEEN ACRES
A field in the south-central part of Phoenix Park, the site of military reviews.
With the use of this term, Joyce brilliantly communicates both his own tender feelings for Irish hospitality and Gabriel's impotence in expressing emotion. Joyce wrote this final story in Rome, where he and Nora and their infant son are much in need of hospitality and finding it wanting. Following the other Dublin stories with their critical views of Dublin, Joyce's homesickness is here expressed with sincerity and generosity.
But we also note that Gabriel begins describing objects rather than people as "hospitable", and describes the people (his relatives!) in an oddly formal manner ("certain good ladies"). In the context of the conversations that have occured in the story so far, the term "hospitality" is rather unfortunate, it turns out, providing associations not only "hospital" but the late 19th century expression "her Majesty's hospitality," to refer to prison. Finally, Gabriel seems to undermine his own attempts by calling for "hospitality" to be "guarded jealously."
WHEN IT IS MISDIRECTED
Is he referring to Miss Ivors?
GONE BEYOND RECALL
An intentional echo (on both Joyce and Gabriel's part) of the opening of "Love's Old Sweet Song" ("Just a Song at Twilight") -- Molly Bloom's favorite song, as well as one Joyce liked to sing:
Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng
Low to our hearts, Love sang an old sweet song;
WILL NOT WILLINGLY LET DIE
See the Second Book of Milton's The Reason of Church Government Urg'd Against Prelaty (1641). Joyce apparently cherished these lines about creating a work that was so "written to aftertimes, as they [the world] should not willingly let it die."
In an earlier version, "this allusion."
AWARD THE PRIZE
A further reference to the Paris story that opens the speech.
FOR THEY ARE
JOLLY GAY FELLOWS
As appropriate to the occasion, the words are changed from "jolly good fellow." Still, the overwhelming male-ness of the story is clear to anyone following the military metaphors (not to mention the behavior of chracters like Mr. Browne).
The story falls neatly into three acts: the arrivals; the dinner; and the departures.
DEATH OF COLD
An echo of the earlier colloquial expressions at Gabriel's and Gretta's entrance: "perished alive" and "she must be perished alive"; a further use of death themes that enfold the story.
IS EVERYWHERE...LAID ON LIKE THE GAS
Aunt Kate is indulging in some low Dublin humor at Mr. Browne's expense; they have put up with this difficult guest with graciousness. Gas is new to Dublin, it is everywhere and it is unavoidable -- like Mr. Browne.
The first mention of this young woman.
A change from "strumming" in an earlier version.
She still calls her place of origin "home," rather than this place where she has lived for some thirty years.
Glue was made from dead horses.
OUT WITH THE QUALITY
With the upper class.
Not exactly a fashionable area.
OF HIS FOREFATHERS
Another biblical allusion. See John 14:2. Jesus is speaking: "In my Father's house are many mansion. In this mansion there were many forefathers."
HORSE KING BILLY SITS ON
The Protestant King William III of England, William of Orange (b.1650, reigned 1689-1702). His total subjugation of Ireland began when he defeated the Irish at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The statue, set up in 1701, was on College Green, opposite both Trinity and the Parliament. Ardent Nationalists loved the horse that threw King William to his death, and even the Irish in favor of union with England disliked having to continually face the horse's arse. The statue suffered much abuse throughout its history.
PACED IN A CIRCLE
Here we see Joyce's purpose in having Gabriel tell and then act out the story and the movement: as with the horse and rider who cannot break the vicious circle of subjugation to English rule, Gabriel himself is bound upon this wheel. Gabriel thinks he has an independent spirit: he does not. The tragic conclusion of this story stems from Gabriel's incomplete knowledge of himself, his wife, and his country.
John Huston, in his film version of "The Dead," does a marvelous job with the dinner party itself, but either he or his son (who wrote the screenplay) failed to grasp the combination of symbolism and realism in Joyce'zs work. For example, in the upcoming scene where Gabriel sees only the bottom part of his wife's body on the staircase, indicating that he has never really known the complete Gretta, the camera shows the full length of Gretta (Anjelica Huston). The scriptwriter has moved the telling of the story from the parlor to the carriage ride back to the Gresham Hotel, rendering Gabriel incapable of acting out, i.e., become the horse and rider himself, thus showing his own subservience to British rule.
LIKE A BIRD FOR TRINITY COLLEGE
The college is about three quarters of a mile from the house.
IN A DARK PART OF THE HALL GAZING UP THE STAIRCASE
The beginning of a striking scene that reveals so much about Gabriel. First of all, he cannot see Gretta's face, suggesting that he has never really known Gretta; second, he sees only her lower body, the site of sexual organs, and we see in the final scene of this story that Gabriel's lust takes precedence over his desire for honestly sharing Gretta's mind. Moreover, she hears in this scene a music of love that he can never hear, or, as the text says, "strained his ear to listen" to. He hears only the everyday, the quotidian, as evidenced by the text's calling attention to the fact that he only hears noise, not music.
A SYMBOL OF
As the scene continues, we see that Gabriel views Gretta as a thing, an object, a symbol, instead of as a woman, a human being: he sees the "grace and mystery" in her attitude but he cannot share it. He goes so far in his (unconscious) desire to turn her into an object that he wants to paint a picture of her. Joyce might also have gotten it from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (London, 1849-50) where, in Chapter 60, Copperfield thinks about his first wife: "With the unerring instinct of her noble heart, she touched the chords of my memory so softly and harmoniously, that not one jarred within me; I could listen to the sorrowful, distant music, and desire to shrink from nothing it awoke. How could I, when, blended with it all, was her dear self, the better angel of my life?"
An awkwardly worded sentence and a trite expression; the phrase was frequently used as a title for paintings.
THE OLD IRISH
Not until around the seventeenth century were sixth and seventh tones added to the five-tone scale of early Irish music. European music is based upon an eight-tone octave, and when early Irish music is adapted to this scale it produces strange effects to twentieth-century ears.
RAIN FALLS ON...BABE LIES COLD
She is singing "The Lass of Aughrim," a version from western Ireland which Nora (Aughrim is near Galway, Nora's origin) sang to Joyce. (One of the original versions of this song is "The Lass of Lochroyan," #76 in F.J.Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-98). The lyrics tell the story of a young peasant girl who has a child by a Lord Gregory, who seduced and then left her. She comes to his castle to beg for his help, but is turned away by his mother who, behind the closed front door, imitates her sons voice. She puts out to sea in a small boat to drown herself and the child, but is not saved, even though the lord discovers his mother's ruse and races to find her. The ballad ends with the lord mourning for his lost love and bringing down a curse on his mother. There are many versions of the song, which perhaps explains Bartell D'Arcy's confusion. The version that Nora sang to Joyce can be found in Richard Ellmann's James Joyce (revised edition, p. 286). The three quoted lines are from the section below where the girl talks with Lord Gregory, who is behind the closed door:
If you'll be the lass of Aughrim As I am taking you mean to be Tell me the first token That passed between you and me. O don9t you remember That night on yon lean hill When we both met together Which I am sorry now to tell. The rain falls on my yellow locks And the dew it wets my skin; My babe lies cold within my arms; Lord Gregory, let me in.
LIKE IT FOR THIRTY YEARS...GENERAL ALL OVER IRELAND
Proleptic for the final paragraph, where Joyce does something unusual, strange, and new for fiction: he takes a line from dialogue here ("snow is general all over Ireland") and transfers it-- with a verb change -- to the narration in the final paragraph ("snow was general all over Ireland." This is a method that will be much used in Ulysses, where there is frequently no dividing line between narration and dialogue, where it is possible for the narration in one part of the book to "remember" dialogue in another section where the narrator was not present.
Semicircular panes of glass, divided into sections like the ribs of a fan, that form the architecture of front door in many Dublin houses. (They are also found over windows.)
THE FLAME OF THE GAS
The gaslight over the door cast light both outside and inside the house.
THE SAME ATTITUDE
As she stood on the stair earlier, listening to the music.
COLOR ON HER
CHEEKS AND THAT HER EYES WERE SHINING
Gabriel apparently does not realize that her eyes are still wet from her emotional response to the song.
WAS STILL DARK
It is at least 3 a.m. by this time.
ON THE AREA RAILINGS
Metal fences, usually with spear-shaped tops; the image is thus proleptic for the final paragraph, where Gabriel imagines the "spears of the little gate" of the cemetery where Michael Furey is buried.
OF THE FOUR COURTS
The imposing 1796 building (still standing) holding the courts of Ireland; on the north bank of the Liffey, across from Ushers Island.
WALKING ON BEFORE HIM
This passage has all the earmarks of Joyce's own memory of an occasion with Nora, particularly since one of her first letters to him was on a kind of purplish stationary ("heliotrope envelope") and Joyce's own fascination with women's clothing. Consider the letter from Joyce to Nora, 12 July, 1904 (they had only recently met): "I hope you put my letter to bed properly. Your glove lay beside me all night -- unbuttoned -- but otherwise conducted itself properly -- like Nora." (Ellmann, Selected Letters, p.22). This is an indication of Joyce's rampant fetish for women's personal garments -- an obsession he transfers to Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, as Bloom asks Molly for a piece of her clothing on one of their first encounters.
IS THE FIRE HOT, SIR?
This question is puzzling, because Gretta is not unintelligent and the answer is obvious. Since, from the beginning of western literature with the Greeks and especially with Virgil -- whose Dido suffers not only the fires of love the the fire of death -- fire has always been emblematic of passion and love. Joyce may be telling us that Gretta, however passionate she appears beside Gabriel, has in fact never known true love. Later, we see that Gretta has indeed not escaped the sentimentality (and the lack of self-awareness that accompanies it) that has characterized Gabriel and a great number of the the Dubliners.
An interesting sideline here: the bottle factories were in the area of Dublin still known as Ringsend, and that area was one of those where Joyce and Nora went walking on their first date.
COULD NOT HEAR WITH
Changed from "could not hear her with" when Joyce made the questioner Gabriel rather than Gretta.
Throughout Dubliners, Portrait, and Ulysses, Joyce makes extensive use of chiasmus (see the Introduction) -- the repetition of images. "Tender" occurs four times in this paragraph.
See the letter Hamlet writes to Ophelia In Act II, sc. ii of Hamlet:
Doubt that the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
NO WORD TENDER ENOUGH TO BE YOUR NAME.
In a letter to Nora (September 19, 1904), only months after their first meeting, Joyce wrote: "And yet why should I be ashamed of words? Why should I not call you what in my heart I continually call you? What is it that prevents me unless it be that no word is tender enough to be your name?" (Ellmann's Selected Letters, p. 30.)
Another repetition -- this one some distance from the scene on the stairs.
They have walked only a short distance from the house. (Originally, Joyce wrote "Bridgefoot Street," the first bridge one comes to in walking toward the center of Dublin from the house.)
LOOKING OUT OF THE WINDOW AND SEEMED TIRED
See the opening paragraph of "Eveline": "She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired." Windows are one of the ubiquitous archetypal symbols of twentieth-century literature, particularly useful in indicating that individuals are trapped in boxes in which real life is occurring outside, in the world, on the street, and is unavailable to the alienated inhabitant of the twentieth century. Note in this story how Gabriel earlier had been looking out a window, and later that Michael Furey, who represents a life that is brief but fully lived is outside throwing gravel at Gretta's window, and, strikingly, that in the final scene in the hotel room Gabriel is separated from life and love not only by Gretta on the next bed but by the symbolism of the window.
In the center of Dublin, leading into O'Connell Street, the location of the Gresham Hotel where they will be staying.
The white horse has been a striking symbol, even before its appearance in Revelation 19:11: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True." Film directors have frequently used shots of a single unmanned white horse galloping through a city, particularly after some devastation has taken place. Joyce probably uses it here because of the ancient tale that the Archangel Gabriel went into battle against the prophet Mohammed riding a white horse, although one is still hard put to assign meaning to the horse in this context.
The statue, which stands to the north of the bridge, is of the revered Irish hero, Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), called "The Liberator" because of his lifelong struggles to achieve Irish independence through peaceful and political means. His "monster meetings" (1841-43) were powerful demonstrations of the desire of the Irish for freedom. His activities led to one year in prison for "seditious conspiracy." He was in ill health when he died, and his followers were split between those who wanted freedom through constitutional means and the "New Irelanders" who supported more forceful means.
Joyce is alluding to his own family history here as he could honestly claim kinship with O'Connell.
Some indecision on Joyce's part, as both the manuscript and the 1914 proofs had "kerbstone," whereas the 1910 proofs had "curbstone," as did the 1914 published version.
"Strange" is a word that Joyce later applies to Nora. In 1909 he makes a trip to Dublin to attempt to acquire some money to support them. Nora remains in Trieste, he misses her terribly and to have some kind of contact with her he goes to the hotel in Dublin where she was working as a chambermaid when they first met. (He even has a meal there.) Later that evening (November 19, 1909) he writes to Nora, his "strange girl": "A strange land, a strange house, strange eyes and the shadow of a strange, strange girl standing silently by the fire, or gazing out of the window across the misty College park. What a mysterious beauty clothes every place where she has lived!" (Ellmann's Selected Letters, p. 179.)
TOGETHER...TO A NEW ADVENTURE
Joyce is perhaps recalling his and Nora's flight together from Dublin to Europe a few months after they had met.
HE LIT A CANDLE
The beginning of what is going to turn out to be a ghost story for Gretta and Gabriel, and Joyce has loaded the scene with features of nineteenth-century tales of horror. Note, for example, the end of this paragraph: "In the silence Gabriel could hear the falling of the molten wax into the tray and the thumping of his own heart against his ribs."
STRESS OF HIS
NAILS AGAINST THE PALMS OF HIS HANDS
Proleptic for the image of the crucifixion in the final paragraph of the story.
TAP OF THE
Term for the light switch, but also a reminder of the tip-tapping against the window pane that Gabriel noticed earlier and will notice again.
For the fact that the electricity is out. The electricity comes from the electric power station which is located on the Pigeon House, which is itself at the end of a pier in Sandymount Strand (Dublin). It is called the Pigeon House because an eighteenth-century caretaker was named John Pigeon. (It had originally been a departure building for sailing to England and then a barracks.) This is one of Joyce's earliest and most pervasive symbols, as he connected the word pigeon to the dove of the Holy Ghost, and thus an electric power station becomes for him the Holy Ghost. (It is noteworthy that no one in Joyce's works ever succeeds in getting out to the Pigeon House, as Joyce considers Dubliners to be lost souls. In the Proteus episode in Ulysses, when Stephen is walking along Sandymount Strand and comes close to the area of the pier, he stops abruptly: "He stood suddenly, his feet beginning to sink slowly in the quaking soil. Turn back" (3.268-9). In "The Encounter" the boys originally planned to "walk out to see the Pigeon House" but they do not get there. A few lines further Joyce manages to strike one of his anti-clerical notes when he has one of the boys fearfully say that they might run into one of the teachers from their school, and another boy replies "what would Father Butler be doing out at the Pigeon House." This is Joyce suggesting that there is little connection between a cleric and the Holy Ghost. Note to the Reader: If these kinds of complicated yet subtle connections annoy you then read no further in Joyce; if they delight you, than be forewarned: you could turn into a Joycean.
THAT HANDSOME ARTICLE
Joyce is continuing the ghost story atmosphere, by having the scene take place only in the subdued light from the window.
Some editions make a textual error in printing "ghastly."
IN A FALSE VOICE
Although the description is consistent with our sense of the difference between Gabriel's inner turmoil and his calm tone, this is a puzzle. Although we have heard Gabriel speak in all kinds of voices tonight (e.g. the honored nephew and the defensive journalist), why is this one a particularly "false" voice?
In an earlier version, "at heart."
Drunk, with implications that this is a frequent condition
Not permanent shops -- opened only during the Christmas season.
HER THOUGHTS HAD BEEN RUNNING WITH HIS.
This is the crux of the matter in this scene: Gabriel mistakes his wife's deep feelings about a romantic past, thinking only that she is feeling the lust for him that he feels for her. They are worlds apart in their sensibilities, they always have been, and this is what Gabriel comes to realize in this climactic scene in their life together.
Free standing full-length mirror
WHEN I WAS LIVING WITH MY GRANDMOTHER
Again, this is Nora's history.
As noted earlier, Michael (Hebrew for "Who is like God?") is the warrior angel, the Church Militant. (See the ninth verse of Jude: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." Also Revelation 12:7-9, where Gabriel fights with a dragon (Satan). Michael is also the heavenly recorder of men9s deeds. In the creation of Michael, Joyce is combining two young men who had courted Nora: Michael Feeny, dead at sixteen, and Michael 'Sonny' Bodkin, who -- even though ill -- did actually come to sing outside Nora9s window on a rainy night. (On Sonny Bodkin's gravestone: "Michael Marion Bodkin, son of Patrick and Winifred Bodkin died on 11 February 1900 at [the] age of 20.") Joyce was jealous of all men Nora had known before him, and he attempts to work out these feelings in his only play, Exiles. See also pages 279-84 when, on the 1909 visit to Dublin a college friend, Cosgrove, maliciously and falsely tells Joyce that Nora had been going out with him at the same time she was seeing Joyce. To experience the pain this belief caused Joyce, see particularly his letter to her from Dublin on August 7, 1909 (Ellmann, p. 158). Nora thought Joyce looked like Michael Bodkin (letter to Richard Ellmann from her sister, see page 243 of Ellmann). On a trip to Galway with Nora in 1912 Joyce bicycled seventeen miles to Oughterard where he thought Michael Furey was buried. His grave is actually in the cemetery in Rahoon close to Galway City . Joyce was so fascinated -- and obsessed -- by Nora's feelings about the young men she had known before him that he tried to capture this in a poem he wrote about Nora and Michael Furey called "She Weeps over Rahoon":
Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling, Where my dark lover lies. Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling, At grey moonrise. Love, hear thou How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling, Ever unanswered and the dark rain falling, Then as now. Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold As his sad heart has lain Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould And muttering rain.
A word in use to indicate not weakness but rather susceptibility to illness.
GO OUT WALKING WITH
The phrase used for dating, with the suggestion that they were in full view of the community and thus were engaged in acceptable behavior.
Joyce has lowered the age from the nineteen it was in the manuscript.
An unhealthy place to work, for this was a plant where burning coal was turned into gas to be used for light and heat in Dublin. Probably the cause of Michael's tuberculosis.
HE HAD BEEN
Joyce had already developed the modernist technique of working by suggestion rather than spelling out every detail. He has cut a sentence he originally wrote between these two sentences: "The irony of his mood soured into sarcasm."
FOR HIS AUNTS
Made himself ridiculous in his behavior at the party.
As used at the time, the word suggested suggested closeness rather than love.
HE HAD PURPOSED
Another example of Joyce's early use of stylistic infection, of the words or phrases of a character inserting themselves into the narration.
I THINK HE
DIED FOR ME
We have seen numerous instances earlier in the story (see Gretta's complaint about the galoshes and Gabriel's overprotective behavior) of Gretta's strength of character, independence, and rejection of many of the demeaning (especially for women) currents of her Dublin. This statement is crucial, as we now see that Gretta herself has been unable to escape the sentimentality, the nostalgia for the past, and -- most of all -- the romanticism that has, in Joyce's view, damaged the Irish soul and spirit. Michael did not die for her, or even because he stood out in the rain beneath her window: he died of tuberculosis, of a physical, not an emotional condition. (Joyce has paid homage here to William Butler Yeats, one of his early supporters: in Yeats' play, Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), an old woman who represents Ireland says about an Irish martyr-patriot who had been hanged "He died for love of me: many a man has died for love of me.")
Seventeen miles northwest of Galway.
WAS IN DECLINE
In the manuscript, "had consumption."
SUCH A GENTLE BOY
In the manuscript, "had such a gentle manner."
Not an island, but an area of Galway. (It was earlier pointed out that Usher's Island was also not an island but an area of Dublin.)
THROWN UP AGAINST THE WINDOW
Cited in a previous annotation where Gabriel is standing at the window in the party scene and we get a proleptic tapping.
ARRAYED FOR THE BRIDAL
See the earlier annotation of the first mention of this opera.
The final paragraph is generally conceded to be one of the finest, most moving, and beautiful in twentieth-century fiction; it is also one of the most ambiguous. It opens with the sound of the snow tapping against the pane, uniting and contrasting the scene with the earlier occasion of Gabriel at the window during the party and, of course, of Michael Furey's "tapping" on Gretta's window with the pebbles. Gabriel is described as watching "sleepily," and in western literature there is tradionally a close connection between sleep and death. We have seen in the preceding paragraphs that Gabriel is being visited by the shades of the dead, and the implication is that, because of the events of this night, he has come to realize not only that he is a ridiculous figure, but that he has never known what true love is, and, moreover, that Gretta felt more for someone in her earlier life than she has for him. The crux of the problem of interpretation is the meaning of "The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward." Certainly to go west is a time-honored trope in literature for death, for the setting of the sun; however, in this story the west (Galway, the Aran Isles) has symbolized the life force (the Gaelic, the true roots of Ireland, the sturdy peasantry, the life force of Michael Furey). Consequently, there has been considerable disagreement over whether Gabriel is now irretrievably dead spiritually or that he is realizing here that his true regeneration lies in the renewal of life that can come from seeking out his roots, of no longer being a "West Briton." The reader will have to make a choice or, in the spirit of contemporary literary theory, decide that there is no choice, that the contradictions render the sentence meaningless. On the other hand, one can accept both meanings, revel in the ambiguity, attempt to hold two contradictory interpretations in the mind at the same time without trying to resolve them. A final possibility is that Joyce himself had not settled on a meaning, that he himself is leaving Gabriel's spiritual state torn between two contradictions. (In this regard see William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity, a seminal twentieth-century theoretical work, in which he presents as one of the types of ambiguity in a literary work the situation where the author remains indeterminate.) The other major problem of interpretation is presented by the image of the snow, which is falling all over Ireland (including the Bog of Allen, some twenty-five miles southwest of Dublin). Does it represent death, is all Ireland covered by the spirit of the dead, is there no physical or spiritual fire in Ireland? (Joyce certainly knew his Homer, and may be alluding to a passage in The Iliad where the stones thrown by warriors on both sides are compared to snow falling, a snow that covers "the grey sea, the harbours and beaches,/ and the surf that breaks against it is stilled, all all things elsewhere/it shrouds from above."In the Homeric comparison snow=arrows=death, and this may be Joyce's intent in his final paragraph. See Iliad, XII.278-89, Lattimore translation.) Attempts to determine an unassailable interpretation are further confounded by the final images of death (the graveyard) and yet a death with promise of resurrection, as we are given allusions to the crucifixion of Christ with the "crosses" on the headstones, and the "spears" and the "thorns." So, is Gabriel incontrovertibly spiritually dead or is there the suggestion that he will be renewed. All we know is that his soul is fainting (has "swooned") and that the snow -- whether death or rebirth is "falling faintly" not only "upon all the living and the dead," but on all the readers of this timeless story.