Gabriel is an intellectual – he is both a teacher and a book reviewer. Due to this, he, most of the time, feels alienated from the rest of the characters at the party and unable to relax unlike other guests who enjoy the conversation, food and drinks. His aunts believe he is the perfect person to give a speech and propose a toast, which is ironic, because he is rather removed from the local customs of his country, and he explicitly states during an argument with Miss Ivors how he is sick of his own country. He is viewed differently depending on the characters he communicates with. His aunts view him as a figure of admiration. However, other women have a different experience with him. Miss Ivors, a fellow teacher, calls him a “West Briton” because he wrote a review for the pro-British newspaper, and she appears to think that he is not loyal to his own country.
However, Gabriel's intellectual pride evaporates when he hears about a confession of his wife – the song that she listened to at the party awakened her memory of her former lover and recognition that he must have loved her deeply as he was willing to die for her. Gabriel is devastated by such news:
"Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks."
This sense of revelation and recognition first leads Gabriel to feel pain and displacement. He is horrified that he is replaced in his wife’s memory with a deceased man. He feels insulted and betrayed. He comes to understand that he has obviously failed as a husband and cannot help but feel defeated as a human being. He is jealous of his wife's former lover because he realizes that Michael, even in his death, is more alive than Gabriel himself has ever been.
It is through Michael that Gabriel is able to put aside his own inflated self-absorption to become a man willing to face the truth and the reality of his own country, his own wife, and himself.