Dubliners The Dead: Questions and Answers

James Joyce

The Dead: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What function does the “fringe of snow” on Gabriel’s coat play at the story’s beginning?

2. When Mary Jane plays the piano, “the only persons who seemed to follow the music was Mary Jane herself.” What does this signify?

3. Why is it ironic that Molly Ivors and Gabriel dance to an Irish tune during their argument?

4. During the argument, Gabriel “wanted to say that literature was above politics,” but he doesn’t. What is Joyce’s opinion about that belief?

5. What is signified by the fact that Gabriel—standing in the party—longs to “walk out alone, first along the river and then through the park”?

6. What is ironic about Aunt Julia’s choice of song for the guests: “Arrayed for the Bridal”?

7. Why does Gabriel’s mood suddenly lift right before dinner?

8. Gabriel’s toast to “the past, of youth, […] of absent faces” is ironic in light of Gretta’s later revelation, why?

9. Gabriel gazes at his wife who stands in “a dark part of the hall.” What does this tell us about his relationship to her?

10. What is the “impalpable and vindictive being” that overtakes Gabriel when he learns that Michael Furey may have died for love of Gretta?

Answers
1. It foreshadows the importance of the snow imagery at the end of the story.

2. It signifies the sterile and emotionless quality that complex art has for its viewers and listeners. Joyce wants us to compare this to the moving performances of the Irish folk ballads further on in the
story.

3. It’s ironic because they are arguing about the value of Irish culture while dancing to an Irish song.

4. Joyce believed that politics and literature were intimately and indelibly linked.

5. It speaks of Gabriel’s emotional isolation.

6. Wearing dark clothes, with her sunken grey face and distracted air, Aunt Julia is the antithesis of a bridal image and more closely represents death in her appearance and manner.

7. He discovers that Molly Ivors has left and blames her for his foul mood.

8. Because Gretta will soon be distracted by thoughts of her past youth and the absent, haunting face of Michael Furey.

9. Gabriel is “in the dark” about his wife’s emotional life, although later he longs to “be the master of her strange mood.”

10. It is the force of the dead.