The Dead Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

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What techniques are used in The Dead to convey Gabriel's character?

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gabriel's name is in itself important, meaning 'man of God' in Hebrew and being also the name of the archangel in the Bible who speaks to the virgin Mary and explains that her pregnancy is a sign that she has found favor with God. The name Gabriel thus connotes goodness and piety. When a character's name reflects that character's personality like this, that name is called a "charactonym".

He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealizing his own clownish lusts.

In this first quotation, Joyce uses a simile to describe how Gabriel sees himself "as a pennyboy for his aunts." A pennyboy is an Irish slang term for somebody who completes menial tasks. This alludes to Gabriel's frustration with his life and to his lack of self-worth. This impression is consolidated by the adjective "clownish" in reference to his own passions or "lusts." Gabriel sees his passions as silly and "ludicrous."

His own...

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