Perhaps one comparison that can be made between Gabriel Conroy and Michael Furey of James Joyce's short story "The Dead" is that they are both dead. While Michael Furey is, of course, literally dead, Gabriel is spiritually dead. He suffers from what Joyce termed the Irish paralysis; he cannot act or grow beyond where he is emotionally.
For instance, when Miss Ivors, who has read an ariticle that he has written, accuses him of loyalty to the British, Gabriel tries to avoid the issue; when she suggests that he visit his own country rather than Belgium and France, and that he practice Gaellic rather than French, Gabriel becomes nervous and replies that he speaks English. In another instance, as he prepares his speech for the evening, he imagines how he can insult Miss Ivors with a phrase, but when he gives his speech Miss Ivors has departed, and he ends up only pleasing his audience. And, after his wife Gretta becomes nostalgic from hearing a song of Mr. D'Arcy that reminds her of a boy who loved her, Gabriel perceives his wife as lovely and alluring. But, when they get home, Gretta cries as he tries to make love to her; consequently, Gabriel again does nothing.
While Michael Furey was a passionate young man willing to die for his love [notice the name Furey], Gabriel realizes that he has no such passion, although he is also a sensitive man as Furey was. Like the young lover, who was only in Gretta's life for a brief time, Gabriel, too, is aware that has played but a "poor part" in her life:
He watched her while she slept as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife.
As he contemplates what has occurred on this holdiay night, he thinks that perhaps soon
...he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black...the blinds would be drawn down...His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead.
In his spiritual paralysis Gabriel thinks "The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward." Joyce here symbolizes Gabriel's spiritual death since westward is a journey toward the dead. Soon he will literally join Michael Furey in death.