An Analysis of The Dead

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An Analysis of The Dead To start in absolutely the least likely place, we have here another version of family life in Ireland (moving East, and from here through The Snapper make a unit contrasting with the previous one), with another way of picturing what the Irish take to be their insularity and closedness, their ludicrous longing for union with the supposedly superior but alien culture of "the continent", and especially that confusion and torment about sexuality which derives so directly from the Irish church's inability to reconcile desire as sin and desire as life-affirming. A fact (at least according to a major recent survey): married Catholics have better sex than other married Americans. Why? It's been suggested that you can't preach so fully the analogy between the union of man and woman with the union of Christ and his church and indeed of man with God without giving a celebratory turn to married love. But this would be inconceivable to the Irish, whose church (despite its being the dominant influence on American Catholicism) focuses on the ascetic and the equation of sex with sin. In a sense, because he is so firmly embedded in this tradition, struggling against it, Joyce seems both hopelessly dated and eternal: hopelessly dated because we don't have enough residue of the sense of sinfullness in our culture to have it be much of a force we have to struggle against, and eternal because it remains true for everyone that passing into adulthood (especially through adolescence) means somehow coming to terms with what is a strand of conflict between sexuality insofar as it is self-aggrandizing and aggressive and the affectional life as it is non-self-aggrandizing and other-centered and in some sense more "pure"-seeming. It is of course possible to come to good terms with this contradiction, but it is also possible to understand and be undermined by its existence, and Gabriel is a very clear instance of the person who can't really reconcile simple physical desire for his beloved wife, a 'getting close to and taking' motive, with equally simple adoration and affection for her in the grace and authenticity of her autonomy, a 'standing back and in some sense giving' motive (I read two passages from Portrait, 171, as against 99- 101). So Gabriel is troubled by what strikes us awfully oddly as his moments of pure and "clownish" "lust", and the essential sadness of this story is in the irony with which the missed communication with Gabriel (the central Joyce theme, I argue) seems to play into and support that: she is not thinking of the fellowship of desire and their life together with its history of ecstacies as well as goloshes, but of a sad unfulfilled feeling of youthful promise and tragic loss which, simply because it cannot have been contaminated with reality and come to in fact be a history of mixture, seems (quite falsely) to set its quality of youth and purity against the reality of age and the mixed life as the good and sincere is set against the corrupt and
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This essay was uploaded on 04/19/2008 for the course ENGL 1010 taught by Professor Heinhorst during the Spring '07 term at College of Southern Nevada.

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An Analysis of The Dead - An Analysis of The Dead To start...

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