The dead door James Joyce

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Boekcover The dead
The dead door James Joyce

Short story review
James Joyce – The Dead (1914)
The writer 
James Joyce is the writer of 'The Dead'. He was born on the 2nd of January 1882 in Dublin, Ireland. He had a large family and grew up in poverty. He went to Clongowes Wood College when he was six years old, and when James Joyce was older, he went to Belvedere College. Later he enrolled in the University College Dublin where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was able to speak 17 different languages. James has written various other books like 'Ulysses' and 'Finnegans Woke'. He passed away at the age of 59 on the 13th of January, 1941.
Sources: and

 The story

The title of the short story is "The Dead". The title fits the story well because there are various mentions of death in the story. The story is based around death and what it does to people who are left behind. If I could choose a different title for this story, I would call it "The Deceased". I would call it this way so it would be clear it was about deceased people and not a horror fiction story about dead people getting resurrected.   

 James Joyce wrote 'The Dead' in 1907 and published it in 1914 as part of his story collection "The Dublins". "The Dead" was the last story in the collection. 

The story is significant to the time it was written because they described many things that are suited to the early 1900s: the clothes, horse carriages, et cetra. The story was also formally written, well fit for that time.

 Sources: and


 The official genre is a short story, but the book has components of other genres. Romance and realistic fiction are the two genres that are part of the book. 

The genre is a short story because the story is very short. There is romance present in the story between the main character and Gabriel's wife, but also the romantic memories of his wife and her old lover. The story has a lot of realistic aspects, and that is why I also choose the realistic fiction genre for this story.

I did not use any sources for this part except for the book itself. 


 The story is mainly about the Misses Morkan's annual dance where relatives and friends come to visit. Gabriel, the nephew, is the protagonist in the story. You see him struggling with the social encounters. He gets upset when he finds out he does not know his wife as well as he thought. A part of the past of his wife is new for him, and he realizes you cannot be sure you know someone entirely even when it is the love of your life.  

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I think the message from the writer to the readers is that you might never know everything from your relatives and loved ones. They might hold things back even if it has an impact on them. I think this is a good lesson to remember because things are not always the same as they seem. It is good to remember that people might have been through a lot, have feelings for old lovers and might feel things they do not talk about. 

 The main theme of this story is death and how it impacts lives. There are various mentions of death throughout the book, and the most important one got saved for last. Michael Furey, Gretta's old boyfriend, died because of sickness. Although, a few weeks before he died, he visited Gretta in the rain just to see her. This probably has made him sicker and might have been the reason why he passed away. This still impacts Gretta, and she did not tell Gabriel about it until later. Because of this, I think death is the main theme of the book.

Another theme of this story is love. There is quite some romance between Gabriel and Gretta, and you can see how much they love each other. On the other hand, you also hear how Gretta loved her old boyfriend, Michael Furey and that he exposed his sick self to coldness and rain to see her in the act of love.  

I didn't use any sources for this part except for the book itself. 

Setting and Place

 The story takes place for the most part in the house of miss Kate and Miss Julia during their annual Misses Morkan's dance. At the end of the story, Gabriel and his wife Gretta went to a hotel. 
I know the story takes place in the house of Miss Kate and Miss Julia because of this sentence: "But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies' dressing-room." 
For the most part the story takes place during the annual Misses Morkan's dance as mentioned above. I know this because of this sentence: "It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough, and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too."

I know Gabriel and his wife Gretta went to a hotel by this sentence:

"When the cab drew up before the hotel, Gabriel jumped out and, in spite of Mr. Bartell D'Arcy's protest, paid the driver." and "Under cover of her silence he pressed her arm closely to his side; and, as they stood at the hotel door."


The story is written in a third-person narrator. The narrator observes everything closely with detail. The narrator is unknown, and there are no details known about him/her. 


This book has many characters, so it was quite hard for me to choose three. Almost all characters are side-characters and are equally important. 

 Gabriel Conroy:

I see Gabriel Conroy as the protagonist of the book. Whilst the book is not written in his point of view, you learn a lot about him as a reader. Gabriel is socially not very strong and struggles with performing a speech and in his answer to Lily. Gabriel is a caring, loving and intelligent. He is very caring towards his wife and others, and he loves his wife very much. He is intelligent because he studied at a university and wanted to use quotes that others might not understand or know who said them. 

Gretta Conroy:
Gretta is the wife of Gabriel. She played a relatively small role until the end of the book. Gretta is loyal, humorous and loving. She is very loyal to her husband because she wanted to go to the Aran Isles, but Gabriel said he would not be coming because he planned something else and she could go alone. After that, Gretta did not speak about it again. She is humorous and likes to make jokes about her husband. She is also very loving to her husband but still loves her first love who died. 

Michael Furey:
It was hard for me to choose a third character since the book has so many. I choose Michael Furey. He had an enormous impact on me when I read his story, and I think he is essential for the story. He was Gretta's first love and her boyfriend before he got sick. He was very sick but still wanted to visit Gretta and walked to her window in the rain. A few weeks later he passed away. He was very loving and loyal to Gretta for coming to her even though he was very sick. I also think he is courageous for doing this because he must have known walking in the rain could make you sicker. 

 I think there is not a hero/villain in this story. It is romantic, but there are no hero and villains.

Literary Devices 

There are a lot of literary devices in this book. There are too many examples to write, but I will write down some of them.

There is sort of flashback about Gretta Conroy and her ex-boyfriend Michael Furey turning up at her window while he was sick and eventually dying. It’s told by Gretta, but it is like a flashback about what happened.

"And then when it came to the time for me to leave Galway and come up to the convent he was much worse and I wouldn't be let see him so I wrote him a letter saying I was going up to Dublin and would be back in the summer, and hoping he would be better then."

There is some humour in the book like the part about Johnny the horse.

"We used to have a very good horse and trap at home," said Aunt Julia sadly. "The never-to-be-forgotten Johnny," said Mary Jane, laughing."

There is also a large part of food and beverages which could be seen as symbols. 

"A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley ... the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes."


Own opinion

At first, I was not very fond of this book, but when I kept reading until the end, I started to appreciate it. In my opinion, the writer spent too many words on the party, and it got a bit lengthy. They introduced a lot of characters, and it was hard for me to memorize each one of them. I would have liked to book better if he shortened the party bit and lengthed the end about Michael Furey. I found this part very interesting to read. After I finished the book, I thought about the part that you can never be sure you know a person completely. There will always be things you do not know about each other, and I think this makes relationships even more interesting.

As mentioned above, if I could change anything, I would like to shorten the party part and lengthen the end or just leave it as it was. I think the story was quite large for a short story and I would have liked to see the party progress faster with fewer characters and details. 


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