...He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees.
In James Joyce's "The Dead" there are the four stages:
- Expectancy -All are preparing for the party and waiting for Gabriel
- The party itself
- The departure from the party
- The hotel room where Gretta and Gabriel are alone--This stage has parts of its own that build to Gabriel's epiphany.
The above quote is taken from the fourth stage in which Gabriel reflects upon the Irish hospitality and humor and warmth, all of which he holds in his heart during the walk in the snow. Once in the room, he acquires a growing admiration for Gretta and her dead admirer. He reflects upon his Aunt Julia and how all things end; here Gabriel's thoughts of life now blur with those of death. But, Gabriel's understanding is yet only partial--this is why he wonders "at the riot of his emotions."
Gabriel's "foolish speech" exemplifies his lack of self-realization; his enjoyment at the party demonstrates his Irish nature; his and Gretta's departure in the snow represent the shrouding of feeling and life; and, his reflections upon Aunt Julia remind Gabriel of his own mortality.