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Reviews, essays, and translations

Entries in Joyce (6)

Sunday
May142017

A Mother

Miss Devlin had become Mrs. Kearney out of spite. She had been educated in a high-class convent, where she had learned French and music. As she was naturally pale and unbending in manner she made few friends at school. When she came to the age of marriage she was sent out to many houses where her playing and ivory manners were much admired. She sat amid the chilly circle of her accomplishments, waiting for some suitor to brave it and offer her a brilliant life. But the young men whom she met were ordinary and she gave them no encouragement, trying to console her romantic desires by eating a great deal of Turkish Delight in secret. However, when she drew near the limit and her friends began to loosen their tongues about her, she silenced them by marrying Mr. Kearney, who was a bootmaker on Ormond Quay.

We forget sometimes that our most fundamental relationships – parent, child, sibling – are the bases for all other relationships, romantic or office, temporary or everlasting. Those of us lucky enough to enjoy a happy, stable childhood – and happiness and stability are the foundations of life, all life – can only wonder at the broken promises that others have endured. Having children is no easy task, and one that to some should never be assigned; but when children are present, when a couple has created a perfect little mammal or welcomed such a being previously bereft of such caretakers, all thoughts should be geared towards the benefit of the children. No longer are we husbands and wives and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters: we are simply parents, mothers and fathers. And while not everyone, for a variety of reasons, may have a father, every single being on earth may claim the title character of this story.

It may seem strange that we are concerned with a mother, when the focal point of our tale is the performance of a certain Kathleen Kearney, the elder of two daughters of Mrs. Kearney, née Devlin. Kathleen Kearney has the type of name that can "be heard often on people's lips," because some names lend themselves to savoring. By dint of her very marketable appellation, her mother's own insistence, and some veritable musical talent, Kathleen Kearney becomes "the accompanist at a series of four grand concerts." These concerts, to be held in Dublin, are sponsored by the Éire Abú Society, which  I am afraid means something rather dull in Irish (and only appears to exist in Joyce's fictional realm). As the concert days approach, all consecutive, with the fourth on the very fateful evening of Saturday, Mrs. Kearney, who should not be mistaken for a person of culture, has high hopes for her daughter's performance. That first night she meets the secretary of the Society, who will represent everything she is hoping to overcome:

In the dressing-room behind the stage she was introduced to the secretary of the Society, Mr. Fitzpatrick. She smiled and shook his hand. He was a little man, with a white, vacant face. She noticed that he wore his soft brown hat carelessly on the side of his head and that his accent was flat. He held a programme in his hand, and, while he was talking to her, he chewed one end of it into a moist pulp. He seemed to bear disappointments lightly. 

Mrs. Kearney, it should be noted, does not bear disappointments lightly; in fact, she does not expect to have to bear them at all. Disappointments, for a snobbish social climber like Mrs. Kearney, are the lives of those without grace, without ambition, and, most importantly perhaps, without the proper connections to put that grace and ambition to best use.  

Things, of course, get worse for our eponymous matriarch. The Wednesday concert provokes the blasphemous suggestion that perhaps the Society "had made a mistake in arranging for four concerts: four was too many"; on Thursday, "the audience behaved indecorously as if the concert were an informal dress rehearsal"; and by Friday morning, someone has seen enough of the first concerts to use "special puffs in all the evening papers reminding the music-loving public" that Kathleen Kearney will be accompanying some impressive artistes the following night. The following night? After the apathy of the Wednesday and Thursday audiences, it was decided by the Society that Friday's would be even less attentive, a logic that would bankrupt the sturdiest of entertainment enterprises, but that is not ours to ponder. And so, a day before their daughter's third and final appearance on the Dublin stage, Mrs. Kearney reveals her suspicions to that "bootmaker on Ormand Quay" who bestowed his surname upon her:

He listened carefully and said that perhaps it would be better if he went with her on Saturday night. She agreed. She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure, and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. She was glad that he had suggested coming with her. 

The phrase "she appreciated his abstract value as a male" in a modern work would seem, and would very likely be, wholly disingenuous; but in Joyce's context there can be no more accurate a description. What ensues that rainy Saturday night will not surprise readers accustomed to those vicissitudes of human nature that may be loosely termed "aesthetic sensibilities" (we will leave the matter at that). We will likewise not address the role of Mr. O'Madden Burke, whose ridiculous name swathes a most ridiculous figure, one which, of course, is "widely respected" by simple-minded people who think spruce, pompous frauds are something to which to aspire. What we should examine, however, is one of the artistes whom Mrs. Kearney surely cannot appreciate:

The bass, Mr. Duggan, was a slender young man with a scattered black moustache. He was the son of a hall porter in an office in the city and, as a boy, he had sung prolonged bass notes in the resounding hall. From this humble state he had raised himself until he had become a first-rate artiste. He had appeared in grand opera. One night, when an operatic artiste had fallen ill, he had undertaken the part of the king in the opera of Maritana at the Queen's Theatre. He sang his music with great feeling and volume and was warmly welcomed by the gallery; but, unfortunately, he marred the good impression by wiping his nose in his gloved hand once or twice out of thoughtlessness. He was unassuming and spoke little. He said yous so softly that it passed unnoticed and he never drank anything stronger than milk for his voice's sake.

Mr. Duggan, you see, is precisely what a mother would want in a child, because he has fulfilled his potential to a sensational level, all the more impressive an accomplishment given the banal hurdles of poverty. And yet, among the innumerable Philistines of grand society, an imaginary community staffed almost entirely by such vulgarians, all that will be remembered of him will be his nose and his gloved hand. The same gloved hand that will one day inherit the earth, the air, and the sea.  

Wednesday
Feb082017

A Painful Case

This writer has come to be known, among other titles, as an innovator of the difficult, of the abstruse, of the unnecessarily and overindulgently literary. A judgment that renders his early works even more shocking if one considers their bluntness. They are not, it should be said, simple works. "Simple" in literature should only apply to books for children and young adults, where certain conventions are followed, or to the etiolated parcels that litter every convenience store and airport, the formulaic kitsch of which some people cannot get enough (explaining this type's everlasting appeal). Dubliners is blunt in the manner that a strong cordial does not get away from you: you know what it will do, you feel at once empowered and weakened, and yet you cannot but have another sip because even the most jaded among us are always impressed with quality. Yet our subject James Duffy, for whom life has been constructed as a fortress, is not impressed with much at all.

A bachelor and "for many years cashier of a private bank," Duffy is a resident of the Irish capital's Chapelizod "because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern, and pretentious" (ironically perhaps, the protagonist of this very modern and very pretentious work hails from this same area). Duffy clearly does not desire much human kindness, milky or otherwise, and has shut himself up in a bourgeois bunker "as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen." A survey of his shelves does not dissuade us from the suspicion that James Duffy does not believe in anything finer or greater than himself, which some may call solipsism and others misanthropy. There is a reason why Duffy "had bought himself every article of furniture in the room," but it is not ours to discover. There is also a reason (perhaps the very same one) why "he allowed himself to think that in certain circumstances he would rob his bank," and why the probability of such a crime dissipated. Maybe a snapshot of our man will yield more clarity:

Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. A medieval doctor would have called him saturnine. His face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at the world from under their tawny brows, gave the impression of a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.

To paraphrase this author, you cannot know how ugly or beautiful a face is until you try and draw it (I will say that I initially read "not quite unamiable mouth," a dull bromide). But we have already sketched Mr. Duffy, so how should we presume? From this passage and his subsequent acts, there remains no doubt as to his character. Self-serving, arrogant, vain, and asocial, he is well-read but far too enamored with his own literary knowledge, which for him means absorbing a lot of 'important' books so as to be able to present them to lesser minds in a discreetly condescending manner. A person far unkinder than I might even suggest that Mr. James Duffy could represent the typical talentless literary critic ("ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often disappointed" seems to lean in that direction), but there is no need for such contumely. Which is why his sudden romance with a married woman, a certain Emily Sinico, takes everyone, Mr. James Duffy included, rather violently by surprise.   

What befalls the lonely coparcenaries of this little fling, and how the story won its title, will be left to the curious reader. The last paragraph of A Painful Case has been much discussed among people who like to discuss such things, undoubtedly because it forfends any hope for humankind and its sentiments. Similarities to another, far greater tale with an equally ambiguous ending are unavoidable, but Chekhov's masterpiece at least envisions the couple acting in unison, as two halves of a whole that, per society's conventional mores, is not permitted to endure. For all the effortless beauty of the prose that cages the two lovebirds, Duffy's affair with Mrs. Sinico must be considered nothing if not implausible. That is, unless we truly subscribe to his interpretation of her as an empty vessel, a hollow orb polished by his palms:

Neither he nor she had had any adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity. Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with her. She listened to all. Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her own life.

Whether Mr. Duffy has indeed squeezed the universe into a ball, and whether that ball will be rolled toward some overwhelming question, will be discussed by those who deem the identification of literary allusions the mark of a cultured mind. For some reason Mr. Duffy strikes one as belonging to that group, even if the only group he could ever imagine joining is some cenacle in which he obtained a lifelong presidency. One also has the distinct impression that the currency that Mrs. Sinico utilizes, a plain fact from her plain existence ("Her husband's great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn"; "Her husband was captain of a mercantile boat"; "They had one child," and so forth), is not much valued by the recipient, who has assumed the far more generous task of imbuing her with ideas from books – as if life outside of libraries were entirely notionless. Is it because he has seen the moment of his greatness flicker? Much more likely that Mr. Duffy could not distinguish a mermaid from the eternal foam.    

Tuesday
Jul142015

Counterparts

Most of us are comfortable with the notion of failure (epitomized perhaps by the maxim "Fail better" from this Irishman); the only matter left to define is failure itself. We accept failure at a certain age because our body signals that it can no longer improve, that actions once easy and insouciant have now become concerning and treacherous. The lightness of youth seems long gone. In its place come for the privileged among us more cerebral tasks and, indeed, more responsibilities. The mind develops, strengthens, maybe even never ceases to peak, but the body descends into simpler routines, longer rest and more fervent adherence to medical advice. Failure can also be perceived as relative, an unfortunate byproduct of a world in which we constantly wonder about the other side and its emerald hills. Which brings us to this nasty, brutish, and short tale.  

Our protagonist acts anonymously most of the story, but is eventually revealed as a Dubliner by the name of Farrington. Farrington is a large and violent man in frame and temperament. The aspirations of his youth, while unabandoned, seem distant although their aspirer is not old. His elbows twitch atop a desk he detests beneath the office of a man he hates even more, and all that he seeks in his mind has as little to do with his reality as we are permitted to imagine it. Since this is a tale of petty failure the details of the story are appropriately frivolous, yet a few deserve mention. As in this famous story Farrington labors as a scrivener, spending his time copying out the words and ideas of others without the slightest possible amendment of his own other than proper spelling. Such work may be vapid, but it also suggests living in the shadows of those who have succeeded. They have succeeded because their words mean action; and action signifies movement in life, change, improvement, the approbation of others, their consent and, finally, authority over them and power. It would hardly be exaggeration to claim that all these qualities are lacking in Farrington's professional life. What we learn, however, is that this effeteness extends into all aspects of his ineluctable modality.

As we begin our brief glimpse into what must be a daily plight, we find Farrington summoned to the office by Mr. Alleyne, his boss. Alleyne is a typical boss in the sense that he offers little to support his statements other than his mandarin authority. He is slight, bald, and redolent of something distinct yet unpleasant. Alleyne has nothing nice to say to our man: according to Alleyne, Farrington lunches too long, copies poorly, shirks the menial tasks he accrues, resorts to that most despicable habit of quoting others as sources of information (a great way to offend your boss), and in general evinces little interest in his work or the well-being of the firm that so graciously hired him. Upon hearing this tirade, Farrington's thoughts are opened to our inspection:

Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he must have a good night's drinking. The middle of the month was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if he had been unaware of the man's presence till that moment, he shot up his head again, saying: 'Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington, you take things easy!' 'I was waiting to see...' 'Very good, you needn't wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work.' The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter.

A paterfamilias – Farrington is the resentful father of five – should not, in a logic-fitted world, yearn to go boozing with the boys; nor should he, in that same world, pawn off a watch chain to afford such debauchery. Were the author himself not Irish, he might be accused of cheap stereotyping (there is no expensive variant). But Joyce knows the kind he describes because Farrington contains a lot of him, and even more of more common men. That is to say, perhaps it is indeed natural for a man burdened by insatiable accountability to want to return to lighter days, evenings that lasted as long as one's thirst, dreams that extended those evenings down rich and glorious paths. But what Farrington undertakes later that evening with a bacchanalian crew, and then at home with his children, makes us lose all hope for his redemption.

Had the story been entitled "Farrington," "The Family Father," or "The Long Night after the Long Day," we might have concluded our analysis at the aforementioned points; failure, after all, has been one of literature's most enduring topics because, over time, tragedy and failure slip into synonymity. Yet "Counterparts" is as curious a headline as Farrington's actions are almost egregiously predictable. It has been proposed that the foil to our surly scribe is none other than his young son, who has little of his father so far, trapped in some narrow, infantile bliss that permits many to survive their childhoods. One might just as rationally argue for the ostensible pleasures gained by Alleyne as he hosts a female guest in his office, and then Farrington when he encounters a woman from London during his pub crawl. Another duo, however, can be taken into consideration, one of whom is certainly Farrington and the other of whom may well have been Farrington in an idealized future whose energy comes purely from the past. The only question is to what degree they have decided to co-exist in this plain and awful present.   

Sunday
May102015

A Little Cloud

The author of this story is split in two: Ignatius Gallaher, the cosmopolitan rake who has no interest in anything and his hand in everything; and our title character, the meek and pious Thomas "Little" Chandler who loves the night and melancholy poetry. Normally, such a dichotomy would beget deep sighs of disdain from the literary-minded who want their figures clear but not clear-cut. Yet in this case the debate is far more fundamental: it is the debate between those who choose to live for their families and those who only live for themselves. Joyce, a man who by most accounts never really decided between these two life paths, only succeeded in one facet of his existence, that of art. His methods were hardly novel, albeit well-chosen. At the age of twenty-two, Joyce selected his bride from among the fairest maidens of Dublin  she not being one of them  because it was she whom he was destined to love and it was she who would accompany him to Trieste, to Switzerland, to Paris so that he would never be completely alone. It is common for literary biographers to overextend the influence of their subject's work into the personal and intimate banalities that lead to practically every coupling on earth as well as every inhabitant. Perhaps we are fools for supposing that a great artist can separate his identity from his reality, his dreams from the contagious mist of mediocrity that swirls about him on every corner, his physical and emotional handicaps from the weaknesses of all men at all times. Yet this is precisely what Joyce attempted, and he tried harder at it than any other major writer of the twentieth century. He failed and failed badly and almost became a footnote within Irish literature. Now we can imagine it: Here lies James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, b. 1882.  Addio terra, addio cielo

Around the age of thirty-two, however, when, like Little Chandler's, "his temperament might be said to be just at the point of maturity," and after ten years of Bohemian uprisings that nearly resulted in his family's perdition, Joyce opted to wed the everyday and the elevated, and in so doing showed us the full contour of his soul. Rarely had such an educated man such a filthy sense of humor; among the truly great (this doesn't mean you, Mr. Sterne) only Mozart's and Goethe's seemed to be on the same base plane. It is this hedonistic, selfish, scatological Joyce that cradles the Petri dish that is Ignatius, both a famous saint and a name rooted in fire and the diabolical pursuits of the Greatest of Pleasure Seekers. Ignatius does not possess a single redeeming quality, and Joyce would have it no other way. Conceding some elements of humanity to this despicable lout would deprive him completely of his relevance as a symbol and the more-than-rare occurrence of someone slowly becoming the poster child for the vice he or she embodies (in Ignatius's case, the vices are a collective). 

Is Ignatius simply a wastrel in a primitive allegory about values? Most certainly; yet he is also representative of the need of modern humanity  even though the need has surfaced time and again for centuries  to justify its instincts by praising the beauty of youth, of frivolity, of unaccountability, of meaninglessness. I think the majority of young men of privilege, myself included, have fought through the phase which Ignatius endorses as truth itself. Take for example Chandler's worries about the City of Lights:

 Tell me, is it true that Paris is so ... immoral as they say?

Ignatius made a Catholic gesture with his right arm.

 Every place is immoral, he said. Of course you do find spicy bits in Paris. Go to one of the students' balls, for instance. That's lively, if you like, when the cocottes begin to let themselves loose. You know what they are, I suppose?

 I've heard of them, said Little Chandler.

The only sincere statement in this whole exchange is Chandler's first question, a fear of missing out on the best that life has to offer, if that's really what one defines as the best. For every girl that becomes part of our past, there are a dozen that can only populate our speculative dreams. And for Chandler, married two years ago at the uncoincidental age of thirty, life consists of refraining from the poetry that his soul desperately wishes to express in favor of a bourgeois home of wife, child, and unambitious job. There is little wrong to such a scenario apart from the great injustice it inflicts upon the artistically minded. Those select few may have other jobs in which they support themselves while spending evenings and weekends on their true passion; and they may manage a personal life that needn't be a series of mistakes, regrets, or distractions. Chandler would be the person to strike such a balance if he weren't, in his own words, "timid." That is why, after his futile evening in Gallaher's shadow,  "he [still] wished to vindicate himself in some way, to assert his manhood," the silliest and most juvenile of male instincts, even at the somber age of thirty-two.

The end of A Little Cloud has been much discussed, but it is not as significant as the rest of the story. As is unfortunate in tales of simple characters that gain in importance owing to the smoothness of their correspondence to people we know, we are prone to manufacture our judgments from our last impressions, from fateful cracks in the armor of otherwise solid citizens who have perhaps just lost their way. Once Chandler determines that "Gallaher was only patronizing him by his friendliness just as he was patronizing Ireland by his visit," the mood shifts from hopeful expectation to resentment to a brief acknowledgement of the greatest ill of our modern society  selfishness. Never before has man been so capable of forging his own destiny  without anyone else, without country, without God  and transforming himself into who or what he desires regardless of "birth and education," two factors in which Chandler is actually Gallaher's superior. But with this freedom comes a concomitant responsibility that is far harder to embrace. As hard in fact as Chandler's infant child  a boy and little cloud who, like his father, continues to pass unnoticed through the twilight sky.

Tuesday
Aug182009

Araby

Every work of art is in part inspired and disciplined.  We may betake ourselves into pessimistic circles because it is easier to be captious and punctilious than to embrace broadly what is imperfect, but love is truly what inspires and disciplines us at once.  From our teenage years on we develop a sense of what it is to become an adult; to be responsible for one's words and actions; to choose a path and have the wherewithal to maintain the course; to be old enough to fall in love that is undeniably real and eternal.  For every sniper who claims love is merely the troubadour's expression of a chemical bond, I give him the love of something greater than a human body or soul, the love of what we breathe, the love of memory, of time, of joy, of lessons that make us the adults we have always wanted to become.  The casual love of an ephemeral being who just happens to be beautiful and reminiscent of some poem we read once, a long time back, about another person in love beyond her means, we can impute to our need for understanding and, more than that, for sympathy.  Which brings us to this tale of youth and regret.

The young protagonist and narrator is a Catholic school pupil who is neither rich nor abjectly poor.  He attends school, his streets are lit ("the space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns"), and his family is around him and patient.  He has discovered something new in life, something that begins and ends with one note, something he would espy in her home from his own rowhouse, "a figure defined by the light from the half-opened door."  This Beatrice is the sister of his classmate Mangan, and she is oddly introduced as just that; never is she given her own identity outside the likelihood of marrying the sister of one's friend since no one ever really leaves the street of one's childhood.  This unnamed lass soon engirds our narrator with her endless horizons:

Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.  My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.  I thought little of the future.  I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration.  But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

Her name is never mentioned and probably doesn't matter, although one might surmise that it has much the same phonetic flavor as Araby, the production which she cannot attend.  The narrator departs and leaves everything behind except what he can snatch from her, from this being presumably a bit older or at least more mature, who has all the trappings of the princesse lointaine necessary for a poet.  Why does a poet need such a distanced object of admiration and affection?  Because that distant object is really his own future work, the embodiment of inspiration – the lyric sensations that this being produces within him – and the discipline that involves forsaking all the women of the world for one woman.  This is the task our narrator undertakes and the one which, of course, is bound to disappoint him since all juvenile love is by definition disappointing.

There cannot be a simpler premise to a story than this.  Our protagonist has little else to do but think about this unapproachable object who, as it were, does talk to him, exuding enough civility to suggest indifference rather than some kind of precocious ego boost.  Time is not, however, on our lad's side:

When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home.  Still it was early.  I sat staring at the clock for some time and when its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room.  I mounted the staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room singing.  From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived.  I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.

It has been said that true maturity arrives when we find ourselves dissenting from group activities, collective notions of fun and edification, and the hedonistic and self-serving interests concealed by the greyness of bourgeois mores.  Our hero enjoys such a moment, however briefly, when some particle of him suddenly feels above the daily hubbub caused and reveled in by his contemporaries.  He wants and in fact deserves more; his soul is deeper and richer than the yells and taunts that surround him.  So, near the story's beginning, when we get a whiff of the "dark and odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness," we may recall a stanza from this poem:  

When last I saw thee drink!  Away!  The fever'd dream is o'er,
I could not live a day and know that we should meet no more!
They tempted me, my beautiful! – for hunger's power is strong –
They tempted me, my beautiful!  But I have loved too long.

Too long means past the daydreams that dissolve time into clear segments – with and without; and to be the subject of such a story only one of these conditions can triumph.  Alas, we know all too well which one.

Tuesday
Jan082008

The Dead

He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning for he feared they would be above the head of his hearers .... they would think he was airing his superior education.

How likely are those gathered for Christmas dinner in this famous tale to comprehend Gabriel Conroy's postprandial speech?  In his opinion, not at all.  How can he talk about something which doesn't interest him to people who are so obviously not on his cloudy plateau of learning?  What could he possibly do or say that would put both him and his audience at ease?  Since they have nothing in common, he will either betray his own truth or the truth of those around him.  But Gabriel's day is governed by untruth and the harsh odor of an undying passion, and no aspect of his existence is left sacred or undisturbed.  Until his wife's confession he remains, however, the only true orator in the story; that will change with mention of the curious immortal Michael Furey.

Gabriel believed, or at least was willing to say, that "literature was above politics" (a quote repeatedly attributed to Joyce himself), and for that splendid reason, kept his name and newspaper column unassociated and this important principle unuttered.  With Miss Ivors, for example, he "could not risk a grandiose phrase" because it would presumably come off as insincere.  His love for literature naturally propels him towards the richer European traditions and their languages, and, subsequently, he resents what he sees as Irish parochialism and the insufficiency of being monoglot.  Like Joyce, he is  tired of simply being Irish, and deposits truth in distant, foreign lands.  The term "West Briton" stems from his work at The Daily Express, but the fact that Miss Ivors reiterates it following his praise of Europe and disparagement of Ireland shows her keen psychology: she will not accord him his desired status, that of a "European."  He fears he might never escape this despicable parochialism.  When Gretta asks him "what words" he had had with Miss Ivors, he responds: "no words ... no words ... only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of Ireland."  Gabriel's tribute to his aunts is perhaps fake, or perhaps he takes pains to mention nothing save their so-called 'admirable' qualities.  Otherwise, they were "only two ignorant old women."  After the spinster Julia's rendition of "Arrayed for the Bridal," Gabriel seizes her hand in congratulatory ecstasy, "shaking it where words failed him," and offers compliments on her performance:

I never heard your voice as it is to-night.  Now!  Would you believe that now?  That's the truth.  Upon my word and honour that's the truth.

The truth is that he couldn't care less about his batty aunts' modest capabilities, and it is no coincidence that his speech is directly preceded by the story of the monks of Mount Melleray.  These monks never speak because they seek to atone "for the sins committed by all the sinners in the outside world."  Hardly an original concept, this "outside world" of "sins" and lies, and an inner world of truth, silentium est aureum, and so forth.  And Gabriel, unlike his creator, is hardly an original.

The speech itself is laden with pious observations.  "We are living in a sceptical and ... thought-tormented age," Gabriel says, then adds that the past days, "might, without exaggeration, be called spacious days."  He has just held forth on "genuine warm-hearted courteous  Irish hospitality," and fearlessly so; his truth has nothing to do with custom, it is in fact the shunning thereof, the break with the expected that evokes his anti-patriotism.  The "thought-tormented age," the present climate of doubt and revolt, does not dovetail with the romantic quirks he reveals near the narrative's end, where his speech becomes an almost purely rhetorical construct tinged with vindictiveness towards those who might dare question his interpretation of values.  When he mentions "those dead and gone, great ones whose fame the world will not let willingly die," he is taken to mean the idols of his aunts and their generation.  But he is really thinking of his own masters, such as Browning.  As he does to the living, Gabriel accords to the dead a certain hierarchy, what can be loosely termed an aesthetic index, by which he measures those around him.  And so he would never imagine a scene like the story's ultimate, because Michael Furey is supposed to be lost in oblivion.  Someone like Michael Furey, or any trivial, rustic aspect of life cannot possibly be true.  "Unless he tells a lie," this simple or parochial emphasis on true things (a predilection for honesty in contrast to the current "sceptical" times), could very well summarize the falseness in Gabriel's discourse.

The Lass of Aughrim dominates the last third of the story, but initially Gabriel reminisces about his love for Gretta.  His passionate letters contain quotes such as, "why is it that words like these seem to me dull and cold?  Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?"  The truest part of Gabriel in The Dead comprises his tender inner thoughts that invariably flow towards his wife, and, if one allows Gabriel's voice or at least a great part of his consciousness to seep through Joyce's lines, the discourse in these pages is lyrical and strong.  His inability or unwillingness to verbalize his relationship with his wife provides two effects: he retains his luster within him, and he fails to understand Gretta's own passion.  While he fretted about his speech, "the indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his," and yet Michael Furey is unquestionably "delicate."  Gretta turns out to be "country cute" as Gabriel's mother had warned him, and this "overeducated"  Irishman now sees himself as

a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts ... a pitiable fatuous fellow.

His own repository of truth, his wife, proves itself to some extent a lie, and its cause is a part of culture he has hitherto denounced openly.  The immortal power of the silent dead, and their famous equation with the living in the story's final line, indicates the vacuity of bold and learned words when compared to the few, small and perhaps simple passions, much like those of a child, that linger forever in memory.