The Dead

James Joyce

” ‘The Dead’ deals as much with ‘the living and the dead’ as it does with the living dead” —Eric Bulson

“The Dead” is one of the twentieth century’s most beautiful pieces of short literature. Taking his inspiration from a family gathering held every year on the Feast of the Epiphany, Joyce pens a story about a married couple attending a Christmas-season party at the house of the husband’s two elderly aunts. A shocking confession made by the husband’s wife toward the end of the story showcases the power of Joyce’s greatest innovation: the epiphany, that moment when everything, for character and reader alike, is suddenly clear.

“The Dead” encapsulates the themes developed in Dubliners. More than any other story Joyce wrote, “The Dead” squarely addresses the state of Ireland in the years leading up to the Irish War of Independence. The final lines of the story suggest that the living might in fact be able to free themselves. Like the January snow in Ireland, nothing lasts forever.

James Joyce (1882-1941) was an Irish writer, widely considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922), the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Although most of his adult life was spent outside the country, Joyce’s Irish experiences are essential to his writings and provide all of the settings for his fiction and much of their subject matter.

The Dead
James Joyce
80 pages
$7.00 US
ISBN: 978-0-979660-79-5
Published: October 2008

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