How would you describe Gabriel Conroy's relationships with women in "The Dead"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gabriel Conroy singularly distinguishes himself by showing that he has no idea in how to relate to women. First of all we have his incredibly embarrassing faux pas of trying to make small talk with Lily and then hoping to give her a tip for Christmas but being left in the rather awkward situation of having to run after her to thrust this rather unwelcome attempt to be munificent upon her. Secondly, he is easily bettered in a battle of verbal wits with the indominitable Miss Ivors, and lastly, he desires an amorous encounter with his wife but remains completely unsure about how to go about it, and is left only to imagine what he would like to occur:

Her would call her softly:


Perhaps she would not hear at once: she would be undressing. Then something in his voice would strike her. She would turn and look at him...

Gabriel's inability to relate to women is shown above all in his own relationship with his wife. Planning to seduce her, he is left facing the reality of the fact that he is only knowledgeable about such matters in his own imagination. He is a perfect Joycean hero in his dis-ease and inability to act.