Gabriel Conroy – self-absorbed individual, cares only about himself and how others see him, paralyzed by his self-consciousness, avoids conflicts and has the superiority complex

Gretta – Gabriel’s wife. Love for Michael Furey in her youth left a mark on her life

Lilly – the poor, hard-working servant

Aunt Julia and Kate & Mary Jane – the hosts, try to keep Irish tradition of hospitality alive

Freddy Malins – a cousin who always comes drunk to the family party

Mr. Browne – an Englishman, a protestant, indirectly discriminated by others on the family party


In ‘’The Dead’’ Joyce criticizes the Irish society(as he was deeply disappointed in it, he exiled himself from Ireland). The Irish are seen as hypocrites, spiritually and morally paralyzed by the nets of social norms and conventions. The best example of this is the main character – Gabriel.

He cares only about himself and is obsessed with the impression he leaves on others, he has to have everything in control, and otherwise he doesn’t know how to act. Being an intellectual and overly educated, he doesn’t know how to converse with people of different social classes and education.

He’s paralyzed by his self-consciousness. He feels uncomfortable when someone is opposing his attitudes, and, instead of defending himself diplomatically as an intellectual, he runs away from conflicts. Gabriel is spiritually dead, as he’s unable to move forward and feel deep emotions, he’s walking around in circles like an old Morkan’s horse.

But, at the end of the story, he receives the epiphany – revelation, and disillusionment as he finds out that his marriage wasn’t based on true, passionate love. His wife, Gretta, knew a boy in her youth, Michael Furey, who loved her so much that he was ready to sacrifice his life for her. Realizing that he could never feel what the young boy felt, Gabriel starts to observe his life in a new way – all his beliefs and attitudes about life are shattered.

He no longer knows who he really is or what his real worth is and importance; he becomes a stranger to himself. Gretta is also paralyzed, being a person who lives in the past and memories. Both Gretta and Gabriel live in world of their own, and not in reality. Snow is an important symbol that may represent spiritual paralysis, as it covers all of Ireland, the living and the dead.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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