What are the political, religious, and art references in "The Dead"?

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"The Dead" is strongly political, religious, and artistic--a true "stages of man" collection. Notes: In an essay published in the volume "Ulysses Today" edited by Declan Kiberd (1990), James Joyce's friend, Frank Budgen (who knew him in Trieste) contrasts his own kind of life with that of Joyce, who was always writing or thinking about writing. Budgen writes that he would go to a cafe where the newspaper was laid on his table, and a waiter would bring him a cup of black coffee. In contrast, Joyce had "the noises around him so organized as to allow his mind to work at its best."

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In the introduction to the Dubliners published by Penguin Books, Dubliners is declared a "stages of man" collection of related stories.  And, as such, it is a narrative replete with church-related ideas and events, political ideas and situations, and music and poetry--all of which are part of the Irish...

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Molly Ivors is the Irish nationalist who accuses Gabriel of being a "West Briton" (a member of the English nation in Ireland). For, when Gabriel says that he goes on a cycling trip to France and Belgium, Miss Ivors lashes out,

--And haven't you your own land to visit...that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?

Later Gabriel reviews the dinner speech he will deliver, wondering what Miss Ivors will think; he decides to contrast his aunts with her, indicating her lack of "hospitality."  However, Molly leaves before the dinner, anyway. 


In his speech, Gabriel refers to his old aunts as "the Three Graces of the Dublin musical world."  At one table where Bartell D'Arcy is seated, "The subject of talk was the opera company which was then at the Theatre Royal," and the guests discuss tenors. 

When people leave at midnight, Gabriel notices his wife, who listens to an air sung by Mr. D'Arcy; as he watches, Gabriel imagines that if he were a painter, he would depict the scene, naming it Distant Music.

After they arrive at the hotel, Gretta reveals that she is thinking about Michael Furey and a song, "The Lass of Aughrim." 


The setting is Christmas time.

Lily, the maid, has a name associated with the flower that is a symbol of the Archangel Gabriel, the name of the protagonist who is attracted to her.

At one of the dinner tables, Mrs. Malins tells others that her son is going to Mount Melleray, a Trappist monastery for a rest.  A Protestant in the group, Mr. Browne, cannot believe that the monks let someone stay for free, and that they "never spoke, got up at two in the morning and slept in their coffins." 

After they leave, he and Gretta ride in the cab to the hotel which crosses O'Connell Bridge and pass the statue of Daniel O'Connell; known as "The Liberator, he achieved Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

Gretta tells her husband that Michael Furey died after she left for the convent school at Nuns' Island.

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Please give some examples of religion, poltics and art in "The Dead."

The party that is described during this great short story--perhaps one of Joyce's best--details the opinions of the assembled masses concerning a number of different issues. However, if you are looking for politics, you need go no further than the conversation Gabriel has with Miss Ivors concerning the fact that he writes for The Daily Express, a newspaper opposed to Irish liberation. This was of course a massive issue of the time and Gabriel wants to give some kind of "grandiose response" to Miss Ivors but is unable to.

Concerning art, when Gabriel wanders to the wall above the piano he comments on the paintings that he sees there:

A picture of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet hung there and beside it was a picture of the two murdered princes in the Tower which Aunt Julia had worked in red, blue and brown wools when she was a little girl.

Lastly, if you are looking for references to religion, consider Aunt Kate's reference to the Pope and his decision to dispose of the women in the choirs in Rome:

-I know all about the honour of God, Mary Jane, but I think it's not at all honourable for the pope to turn out the women out of the choirs that have slaved there all their lives and put little whipper-snappers of boys over their heads. I suppose it is for the good of the Church if the pope does it. But it's not just, Mary Jane, and it's not right.

So, these are just some of the references to religion, art and politics in this excellent short story. You might want to go and re-read it now to see if you can identify any more references. Good luck!

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