Book Review: The Dead by James Joyce


In The Dead is a story that could have gone many different ways. Taking place at a party, the reader wonders with each interaction where the plot may be headed–especially given the title. Dubliners Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta attend the annual dance hosted by his spinster aunts around the time of Epiphany in early January. While there he mixes with his aunts and the varied guests and generally finds himself unsure of himself and feeling rather awkward. At the end of the evening he becomes emotionally and physically amorous towards his wife. But he finds her worlds away. When pressed, Gretta tells him about her profound loss over the death of a loved one when she was seventeen. For a few reasons the story effects Gabriel deeply and one senses that he might be on the edge of a personal epiphany.

He muses:

Better to pass boldy into that other world in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.

The Verdict: Much to my surprise I really liked this novella. Up to this point I had sworn off James Joyce. I think The Dead has me reconsidering that.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dead by James Joyce

  1. JoAnn August 10, 2011 / 8:37 am

    Oh, good! I'm planning to read The Dead sometime this month, too. Have already read several of the stories in Dubliners, and enjoyed them more than I expected.


  2. music-books-steve August 10, 2011 / 10:02 am

    You might be too old for Portrait of the Artist, but back in high school it was my favorite book. As I've said before here, don't be too quick to dismiss Ulysses.


  3. mel u August 12, 2011 / 5:25 am

    I think parts of “The Dead”, especially the last few paragraphs, are totally beautiful-


  4. Thomas at My Porch August 12, 2011 / 10:59 am

    JoAnn: I think you will like it.

    Steve: I read Portrait sometime in the last decade. That is what made me not want to read any more Joyce. The Dead might make me change my mind.

    Mel: It really was.


  5. Heidi'sbooks August 20, 2011 / 9:37 pm

    I'm going to start this one soon. I haven't read any of Wharton's books before, so I'm looking forward to this one.


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