Throughout the story, the reader senses the weakness of character in Gabriel. When Lily, the caretaker's daughter whom he knew as a child and "used to sit on the lowest step" with her, replies to his questions about her boyfriend with bitterness, Gabriel cannot even retort. He avoids any confrontation; when Molly Ivors accuses him of being a "West Briton," he again squirts the issue. Even with his wife, who is distraught, he only wants to make love to her rather than talking with her about her feelings.
Gabriel is repugnant as a lifeless, weak man. He lacks the passion that the true Irish have as represented in Molly Ivors. He is what is called "the tragic Irish." spiritually and emotionally paralyzed.
I think that this is going to be something that will change as more people will offer their own take. I think that the style of Joyce's writing is what grabs at me when I read his work. This particular work is not an exception. There seems to be much in the way of a style of writing that expresses the hopes and dreams of individuals, cast against a realistic structure that might not allow them to be fully recognized. In the end, the idea of being able to aspire or hope to some ideal that the subjective believes is out there and fully present, but one that the objective or external setting does not fully embrace is what makes the story something powerful. I think that this is something that I experience from an emotional point of view in this setting.