What's the climax of "The Dead" by James Joyce?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The climax of this incredible story comes at the end of the tale, after Gretta has told Gabriel about her former lover, Michael Furey, and his unfortunate demise. After this revelation, Gabriel watches his wife sleep and ponders the meaning of Michael Furey and experiences a massive epiphany, or revelation about himself and his place in the world:

One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.

Gabriel compares himself to Michael Furey and finds himself wanting, realising that although he had a short life, he lived his life fully and "passed boldy" into death rather than doing what he is doing and "fading and withering" dismally into old age and death. Gabriel realises that his life is spent not really living: he has never loved anyone else truly and throughout the story seems obsessed by what others think of him and doing and saying the right thing. It is this moment that represents the climax of "The Dead," as Gabriel is left to decide what to do with this moment of tremendous self-knowledge.