The Dead

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Dead” by James Joyce. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Dead” (1914)
Author: James Joyce
Genre: Short story

James Joyce (1882-1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet and literary critic. In his early 20s he emigrated to Switzerland with his wife and spent most of his life abroad. He is especially known for his novel Ulysses (1992) which is considered a highly important work of modernist fiction. The story “The Dead” is the final story in his 1914 short story collection Dubliners, which describes the Irish middle class at the beginning of the 20th century. It is the longest story in the collection. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


Snow is an important symbol in the story as it seems to help Gabriel reach his revelation. The imagery of the snow covering the entire country, the dead and the living, suggests that the snow could symbolize Gabriel’s previously rejected national identity. This idea is also enforced by Gabriel thinking of the snow as covering various national landmarks, such as the Wellington Monument that “wore a gleaming cap of snow that flashed westward over the white field of Fifteen Acres.”

Snow can also be interpreted as a symbol of Gabriel’s emotional connection to the people around him, whom he had previously disregarded. Gabriel has been thinking throughout the party how he would rather be outside in the snow. Aunt Julia also says “ ‘I love the look of snow’ ”. This is symbolic of a connection between Gabriel’s generation and the old generation represented by Aunt Julia, a connection between the past and present. 

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The Dead

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