The Dead Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

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I need to write about how Irish culture is presented in the short story, "The Dead" for an essay question.

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Joyce presents elements of traditional Irish culture in "The Dead." For example, there are some stock Irish characters. Miss Julia and Miss Kate hold concerts for their music students. They are spinsters who, like many traditional unmarried women, give lessons to support themselves. There is the character Freddy Malins who is an alcoholic and who worries the spinsters. Joyce writes, "Freddy Malins exploded, before he had well reached the climax of his story, in a kink of high-pitched bronchitic laughter." Malins is the kind of humorous drunk who often populates Irish stories.

As Joyce presents Irish culture, it is also characterized by a divide between those who support Irish nationalism and those who do not. Miss Ivors, a character who Gabriel meets, is an Irish nationalist who literally wears her politics on her sleeve, as "her collar bore on it an Irish device and motto." She criticizes Gabriel for writing for The Daily Express, a newspaper, because she disagrees with the paper's politics. However, Gabriel's main concern is with his love for the new books he receives to review for the paper. Later, Miss Ivors asks if Gabriel is traveling to the Aran Islands, part of Ireland, but Gabriel is instead traveling to France or Belgium. Miss Ivors is an Irish nationalist who wants to support her country and its culture with her every move, while Gabriel, a writer, is a cosmopolitan figure who is more concerned with his own thoughts and explorations than only about his country.  

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Irish culture permeates the Christmas gathering at the Morkan house in "The Dead." Many typical Irish types (or stereotypes) attend the party. One is Molly Ivors, an Irish nationalist. 

The main character, Gabriel Conroy has feelings of superiority to Ireland and what he thinks of as his country's lack of sophistication. Molly Ivors, however, condemns Gabriel for favoring Europe over his own country. For instance, he vacations in Belgium and France rather than, as Molly thinks he should, the Irish Aran Islands. He avoids Irish politics, writing for British slanted The Daily Express. Gabriel responds that he is “sick” of Ireland, causing Molly to leave the party in a huff.

Conroy fancies himself as part of an international European elite. He wants to reject an identity as a provincial Irishman. He is so busy looking at the horizon beyond his own life that he misses what is in front of him, such as the fact his wife was in love with another man before she married him. 

Conroy is an autobiographical portrait of the young James Joyce, who also arrogantly rejected Ireland (see link below). 

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