How is Irish culture maintained in the short story, "The Dead"?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's "The Dead" is a story of Irish people who are caught between memories of the Irish past and a paralysis that is connected to the English domination of Ireland.

Here are ways in which the Irish culture is sustained in "The Dead":

  • The Dubliners hold the traditional party and annual dance on the Feast of the Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas)
  • Traditional music is played and songs sung.
  • When Gabriel is asked to speak, he is "undecided" about lines from Robert Browning, an English poet whose writing was abstruse to many. Gabriel considers quoting from Thomas More's Irish Melodies instead.
  • Mr. Browne alludes to "the famous Mrs. Cassidy". This is a possible reference to stock characters of the Pat and Mike variety and the telling of Irish jokes.
  • Mary Jane plays "her Academy piece", a difficult piece of music prescribed by the Royal Irish Academy of Music. This piece is not particularly melodic or entertaining. Instead, it is used to test the technical proficiency of the musician.
  • There are many allusions to Irish folk songs, such as The Lass of Aughrim from which a line is quoted, "O, the rain falls...lies cold."
  • The character Molly Ivors is representative of Irish nationalism. She conflicts with Gabriel, whom she accuses of having adopted too much that is English. Molly, who wears a modest dress and has a brooch with an Irish motto on it, advocates the return to the Gaelic language and an Irish chauvinism. When Gabriel talks of visiting the continent, Molly urges him to visit the Aran Islands that are off the coast of Ireland.

And haven't you your own land to visit,...that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?

  • Many allusions are made to famous Irish sites such as Trinity College, the Theatre Royal, the palace of Four Courts, the statue of Daniel O'Connell, etc. 



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The Dead

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