The Dead Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

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In "The Dead" by James Joyce, what is the significance of Gabriel seeing himself in the mirror?

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Much of this story is told in stream-of-consciousness style, following first the flow of the maid Lily's thoughts and then the flow of Gabriel's thoughts. When Gabriel arrives at the Christmas party and offends Lily, he feels awkward, self-conscious, and in need of validation. He views the world around him in terms of his own ego. He worries about making his Christmas speech, thinking:

He would fail with them just as he had failed with the girl in the pantry. He had taken up a wrong tone. His whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure.

Later, after his speech, he feels better, and his eyes are bright with happiness. He feels loving towards his wife, Gretta.

He sees himself in a mirror in the hotel room when he and Gretta are alone together. This is significant because initially, he seems at peace with what he sees, a figure in a "broad, well-filled shirt-front." Significantly, too, he is "puzzled" as he "always" is by his expression. This suggests he lacks...

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