What is the main theme of "The Dead"? Is there any similarity to "Araby"?

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All of the stories in Dubliners share a dominant theme: the cultural and intellectual paralysis of contemporary Ireland. In "Araby " a young boy wishes to escape from his crushingly drab, unstable home life to enter into a world of fantasy and excitement at a bazaar. But when he...

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All of the stories in Dubliners share a dominant theme: the cultural and intellectual paralysis of contemporary Ireland. In "Araby" a young boy wishes to escape from his crushingly drab, unstable home life to enter into a world of fantasy and excitement at a bazaar. But when he gets there he finds that the place is closing down, and so he's unable to buy a gift for Mangan's sister, a girl he's fallen for in a big way.

The boy has been brought back down to reality with an almighty bump. He now has no choice but to return to the shabby, genteel part of Dublin he has the gross misfortune to inhabit. North Richmond Street, where he lives, symbolizes a country in terminal decline, unable and unwilling to throw off the shackles of its colonial past and present and take its place among the nations of Europe. In the national mythos they've invented for themselves, the Irish are retreating into a similar world of fantasy to the boy, a world of Gaelic revivalism. The difference is that such cultural nationalists show no sign of being disillusioned.

Gabriel Conroy, like the boy in "Araby" also wants to escape from contemporary Ireland. But he too cannot do so, trapped as he is in a delusion of his own making. He rails against the Irish, sneering at their cultural traditions; yet he still remains as confined by his Irishness as everybody else. The symbolic snowfalls that cover the whole of Ireland in a soft deep blanket affect him in much the same way as those of his fellow countrymen he's come to despise.

Conroy openly rejects what for Joyce is the blind alley of rigid Irish nationalism. But he's simply replaced it with the quasi-British nationalism of an Irish Unionist. In asserting his political worldview he thinks he's somehow above the fray, culturally and intellectually superior to those of his Irish compatriots he looks down on. But as with the boy in "Araby" he's deluding himself; he is as "dead" as everyone else.

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The main themes of "The Dead" are emotional paralysis and self-realization.  Gabriel is a spiritually and emotionally "dead" man who does not realize it in the story until the end.  

Gabriel is a disaffected man who is more concerned about impressing others and daydreaming about things he wants to do, but does not have the skills to do (emotionally).  After attending a party, his wife breaks down and confesses that a song she heard there reminded her of a young man who desired to be with her that she rejected.  The young man, after being rejected, said he had nothing to live for now.  He apparently committed suicide afterwards.  This moment is when Gabriel has his epiphany.  He realizes that he could never love anyone like the young man, Michael, loved his wife Gretta.  He realizes how totally disconnected he has been emotionally not only to his wife, but to all others in his life as well.  He has been paralyzed by his own inability to empathize and feel for others.  Through this epiphany, he experiences his enlightenment and self-realization.

This is similar to "Araby" in that the main character also has his own epiphany about his reactions to events in his life.  The character comes to the realization that he has wasted lots of valuable time obsessing over an unattainable sister of a friend and that he has much to learn about real love and what that entails.

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