The Dead Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

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Explain the term “Epiphany” and its significance in Joyce’s “The Dead.”

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The term "epiphany" refers to the Christian feast of the Epiphany on January 6th commemorating the three kings who visited Christ with gifts when he was born. More generally, the term refers to "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." Both senses of the term are applicable to James Joyce's story "The Dead."

Although the term is not used explicitly in the story, the religious sense of the word is reflected in the setting of a traditionally catholic family in West Ireland who are celebrating the catholic feast of Christmas. The main character, Gabriel, has fallen away from his native heritage of Ireland: he has no interest in expanding his knowledge of the language of Irish, nor traditional Irish customs, and he speaks of wishing to travel the continent of Europe, a perspective which is taken under scrutiny by his older aunts.

Back at his hotel, at the...

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