Describe this party. What aspects of traditionalism do you see at the party? This is a big part of the story. Traditions seem to be crumbling. “The Dead” by James Joyce This is our first Modernist text. Modernism is a follow-up and progression of Realism, which we discussed with the Russian writers. The first thing I’d like you to do is read MODERNITY and MODERNISM on pages 3-13 on Volume F. It’s going to be very helpful for you to have a grasp of this. Modernism is the period from roughly 1890-1930. It is a reaction against many things happening in, particularly, Europe. Industrialization, traditionalism, nationalism, and the such. At the turn of the century, the world was exploding with the machine. Industrialization was in full swing. Big corporations were beginning to hoard the economy. Old money and old modes of government and religion didn’t seem to fit any more. And all this walked us right up to World War I, which was known as The Great War. In reaction, artists begin to focus even more on the individual and the inner self. Art become more about how life “feels” versus how life “looks.” I think this characteristic will be evident in “The Dead.” Emotions, what’s inside, is what drives us, triggers us, dictates our behavior. Notice how “internalized” the story is. Some characteristics of Modernism you need to be aware of: 1. Dark themes and symbolism 2. Fragmented chronology (no traditional timeline) 3. Stream of consciousness technique: we go inside a character’s head to see/hear what they are thinking versus what they are saying, much like life 4. Direct treatment of the subject: if it’s sex, call it sex. If it’s God, call it God. If it’s lust, call it lust. Treat subjects directly, which is real. 5. Open, ambiguous endings So, with that in mind, let’s look at “The Dead.” The title itself gives you an idea about the impact of World War I and the mood and feeling of these writers and their communities. As you’ll see in your introduction, Joyce is synonymous with Modernism. He used the stream of consciousness technique, and though we don’t see it in “The Dead,” his novels are very experimental in style. Be sure and read your introduction. The Dead Gabriel Conroy is our main character. The story takes place at an annual New Year’s party given by his aunts. This party itself is filled with aspects of traditionalism. Gabriel enters the house and immediately has a conversation with Lily, the servant girl, and he instantly becomes self-conscious that he has offended her. This is just the beginning of Gabriel’s self-consciousness dictating his behavior and we see that it is an overwhelming aspect of his character. Gabriel is highly concerned about what others think about him. How does that affect a person’s behavior? It seems evident that Gabriel wants to please anyone and everyone. Discussion questions: 1. Describe this party. What aspects of traditionalism do you see at the party? This is a big part of the story. Traditions seem to be crumbling. 2. Describe Gabriel. What are his problems? Notice I made this problems and not problem. He has some issues. 3. What does the mood of the party say about the people? 4. What various “roles” does Gabriel play at the party? How does he try to please? Give examples. Does anybody, besides Freddy who is drunk, seem to be having any fun? The setting of the party plays a major role in the thematic concerns of “The Dead.” Is this party an end or a beginning? Is it the last glimpse of a way of life gone by? Where do these people fit into the new modes of living at the turn of the century, which was a very fast time of change in Western Europe? Think about not only the people, but look around the house, listen to the music, listen to the dialogue of characters. The story eventually moves from the party to more of a focus on Gabriel and his wife Gretta. They leave in a taxi and are on their way to a hotel. While on their way, it begins to snow. Gretta has heard a song at the party that triggers a memory. Here we see the Modernist influence of the role our memories play on our present, and future. Gabriel and Gretta get to their hotel room, and notice how they are together once they are alone. Discussion questions: 1. How would you describe the relationship between Gabriel and Gretta? And base this not on the coming revelation, but on how we see them before she even tells Gabriel about Michael Furey. 2. Again, alone with Gretta, what is Gabriel’s problem(s)? The final scene of “The Dead” is one of the more famous in literature. Gretta reveals her past intimacy with Michael Furey, a boy she had known in her youth, who was sickly, but so desperate to see her that he braved the winter weather and he caught fever and died. Gretta says, “I think he died because of me.” This changes everything. Notice that Gabriel immediately becomes accusing, nervous, almost angry with her. He asks her three times if she loved him, and she dodges the question three times. She gets so upset that she is on the bed crying, and Gabriel, instead of consoling her, goes and stands at the window, and she cries herself to sleep. Immediately Gabriel realizes….what? He has an epiphany, which is a sudden spiritual awakening, which is another literary device that Joyce employed often. Discussion questions: 1. How does Gretta’s revelation change “everything” for Gabriel? What has he come to realize about: his wife, their life together, and his own life? His realizations are far reaching. 2. Is he simply incapable of reaching out to her? Gabriel stands at the window and the snow is covering everything. Again, the final paragraph is one of the more famous in literature. It is also one of the most debated passages in modern literature. Why? Because of the symbolism of the snow. A final big question: How do you interpret the snow, and the mood it depicts as Gabriel stares out of the window, in relation to how the story has revealed itself? Think about it some.