In James Joyce's "The Dead," Gabriel Conroy presents an interesting patriarchal figure. On the one hand, he is shown to be an important person in his own family, the classic male patriarch; on the other, he is shown to be ineffectual and weak, a subversion of traditional patriarchal modes.
Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia, the hostesses of the party that most of the narrative outlines, hold their nephew Gabriel in high regard. Upon meeting Gabriel, it becomes apparent that he's a well-educated fellow of privileged social standing. Each year he has the distinguished honor to both carve the goose at the party's dinner table and give an after-dinner speech. In these ways, Gabriel becomes something of a classic patriarch: he wields a certain level of power and prestige, and he presides at the head of the table when his family and friends meet for important social gatherings.
In many ways, however, Gabriel is also the opposite of the traditional patriarch, and his character subverts this masculine ideal. He doesn't seem to fit in with most of his friends and family, and it seems that some of them even dislike him and view him as misguided or ineffectual. Most importantly, it becomes apparent that he doesn't even control the loyalty of his wife, as her true love was the romantic and deceased Michael Furey from Galway. Indeed, juxtaposed with the romantic and dashing figure of his wife's first love, Gabriel becomes a ridiculous figure, one who does not have the importance, influence, or power that he thought he did.
All in all, while Gabriel at first appears to have some traditional patriarchal traits (such as power and authority), the end of the story reveals much of these perceived traits to be nonexistent. Gabriel is revealed to be ineffectual and weak, and so he becomes an inversion of traditional patriarchal modes.