How does Joyce's portrayal of Women in "The Dead" inevitably affect Gabriel, his growth as a character, and his ending epiphany?
"Joyce’s Portral of Women in “The Dead” and their impact on Gabriel" is the topic I have chosen for my essay.
This is a great question - perfect for an essay, as you are completely right to focus on how the various female characters in this incredible short story reveal more about Gabriel's character. It is through his encounters with women that we see Gabriel for who he is - as a passive, uncertain character who spends a lot of time worrying about how he comes across and what others think of him. Note how his behaviour could be interpreted as supercilious - for example, he tries to calm Lily down after offending her by paying her off, saying that it is a Christmas present. Likewise he comes across as a bit of a snob when he debates quoting Browning at the dinner speech as he thinks it will be too "educated" for the guests. He is arrogant, referring to his beloved aunts who genuinely care about him as "two ignorant old women," and yet he reveals a tenderer side when he shows just how uncertain he truly is. Consider his encounter with Molly Ivors and the accusation she makes of where his loyalties lie. Just as with Lily, he seems desperately unsure of how to handle the situation, not wanting to make a scene during the party.
However, by far the most interesting encounter he has with a woman is with his wife, with whom it is clear that he has an interesting relationship. Arguably it could be said that he objectifies her, speaking to her like he would a little girl, insisting that she wears galoshes. He patronises her and is rude when she shows evident pleasure at the idea of returning to Galway. It appears that for the majority of the tale, Gabriel either treats her as an object that he is proud to "own" or as an object of lust. However, it is Gretta and her tale of Michael Fury that triggers his epiphany and forces him to regard both her and himself from a different point of view, triggering off a larger understanding about the inevitable nature of the human state.
So, it appears that all the women and Gabriel's encounters with them show how he is insecure and inexperienced in relationships and, in particular, love, which is why the epiphany comes as such a big shock to him at the end of the tale.
The relationship between Gabriel and Greta is like teacher and pupil. He wants to lead the game of love, but he is upset when he finally understands that love cannot be based on who leads and who follows the leader.