What are the possible interpretations of the end of "The Dead"? What is Gabriel's state of mind?

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One possible interpretation of the end of Joyce's “The Dead” is that it's a commentary on the state of contemporary Ireland.

The dominant theme throughout the collection of short stories—Dubliners —of which “The Dead” is the last, is the spiritual and cultural paralysis of early twentieth-century Ireland,...

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One possible interpretation of the end of Joyce's “The Dead” is that it's a commentary on the state of contemporary Ireland.

The dominant theme throughout the collection of short stories—Dubliners—of which “The Dead” is the last, is the spiritual and cultural paralysis of early twentieth-century Ireland, a place from which Joyce escaped to Europe, only to return once.

This theme is illustrated in the story's final paragraph by the striking imagery of snow falling generally over Ireland. It is not just Gabriel Conroy, who realizes that his marriage to Gretta is entirely devoid of passion, who is suffering from spiritual and cultural paralysis. Nor is it just the city of Dublin in which the characters of Joyce's short stories live. It is the whole of Ireland.

Gabriel's state of mind is disturbed. He feels alone, knowing as he now does that his wife is still deeply moved by the memory of a former lover called Michael Furey, who died for the love of Gretta. Already estranged from his fellow countrymen due to his opposition to Irish nationalism, Gabriel is more isolated than ever due to the realization of where Gretta's true feelings really lie.

Drawing heavily upon the symbolism of snow, Joyce leaves us once again in no uncertain terms as to how he feels about the state of the country in which he was born. Snow, as with ice, implies that which is frozen, something that doesn't move. And that is precisely the condition that Joyce observes in relation to Ireland.

It is frozen, immovable, unable to develop into a modern European nation-state, held back as it is by the cultural and political dominance of Britain, to whose empire Ireland still belongs, and the spiritual influence of the Catholic church, to whom the vast majority of Irish men and women belong.

Joyce saw Ireland's present as being much like its past, and this continuity is symbolized in the very last line by the snow falling “upon all the living and the dead.” That's why he no longer felt able to live in a country where the past was very much prologue.

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