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As I read James Joyce's short story "The Dead," Gabriel misunderstands pretty much everyone he interacts with, not just his wife. The epiphany (as Gabriel's sudden realization at the story's end is usually called) is a capstone to Gabriel's entire evening of assuming that other people will think and do exactly like he wants them to. In this regard, the entire evening is a failure, and the final failure is his failed attempt to sweep his wife off her feet. In the final pages of the story, he comes to realize that his wife has not only a mind of her own but an entire past of her own that, up to now, he's not been able to fully appreciate.
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