A Christmas party is an appropriate setting for "The Dead" as it shows the extent to which the assembled guests have attempted to lay the ghosts of the past to rest. Just over half a century before the story was set, Ireland was devastated by an appalling famine that decimated the population, killing millions and forcing millions more to emigrate. And yet now, in a shabby-genteel part of the nation's capital, Dublin, we have people gathering together at Christmas to stuff themselves with plump goose, crumbed ham, and "chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers".
Christmas, then, is a time of fun and enjoyment, an ideal time to lay to rest the ghosts of the past and look forward to a brighter future. But Gabriel Conroy is notably unable to do this. His marriage to Gretta is haunted by the memory of Michael Furey, Gretta's former lover who died of a broken heart at the age of 17 after she went away.
And the snow that falls upon Ireland that cold winter's evening is a symbolic...
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