In "The Dead," why does Joyce choose the Christmas party to tell his story?
The actual timing of the party in this story is of immense significance when we consider the central realisation experienced at the end of the tale by Gabriel Conroy. Many critics believe that the action of the story occurs on January 5th, which is the night before Epiphany. Epiphany is a Christian festival that occurs on 6th January and is supposedly when the wise men arrived to bring their gifts to the baby Jesus, but now the term refers in religious circles to a recognition of the manifestation of God's presence to the world. Joyce transformed this religious term into a literary one, as he uses the term to refer to a sudden moment of insight or awareness that reveals the true nature of a character. It is therefore entirely fitting that the action of the story should occur the night before the feast of the Epiphany, as the setting therefore is paralleled by the intense moment of self-realisation experienced by Gabriel Conroy at the end of the tale after his wife, Gretta, has told him about Michael Furey. Gabriel realises just how empty his life has been without love, and he recognises the paralysis that he has been subject to. Setting therefore finds its expression in character.