Gabriel Conroy In The Dead: Character Analysis
The characters in this intriguing short story are interpreted by the smallest of details. The way they look, hair styles, gestures, and the way the respond to others. Of all of the people that attended the Christmas party, main character Gabriel Conroy conveyed a reason to pay attention to him and his story.
When Gabriel is first seen he’s merely thought of as a happy man that is happily married, and a successful teacher. Yet, as the story developed and moves on, it’s shown that Gabriel’s life isn’t what everyone portraits it to be. He’s in opposition with his society through isolation and alienation.
As the story began to progress, it’s seen that Gabriel is nothing short of a perfectionist. He constantly frets about physical and “inner” appearance, and his words. While everyone at the party is enjoying the food and conversation, he obsesses over a speech he is going to give after the dinner. He focuses on his phrases so much that his behavior can be seen as “theatrical”. He’s rather have everything he’s going to say or how he’s going to react reviewed in his own head. He flounders when our in a situation in which he can’t “read” another person or respond accordingly. He is disconnected from the people around him due to the fact that he worries about things that seem more important to him. ‘Gabriel hardly heard what she said.”, gives us an insight on his state.
Gabriel is definitely aware of his education and abilities. He views himself to be intellectually elevated in comparison to the rest of the guests that he’s socializing with. The dinner’s speech is a good example of this: ‘He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers’. Another interesting turn takes place at the of story when Gabriel asks Lily about marriage. When Gabriel speaks he doesn’t take into consideration that what he asks might be offensive or hurtful to Lily. When she responds in a bitter tone of slight anger and irritation, he decides to offer her a coin to make himself feel better about his failure to attempt to make conversation with Lily. ‘Then he took a coin rapidly from his pocket. ’O Lily, he said, thrusting it into her hands, it’s Christmas-time, isn’t it?.”
Gabriel’s lack of emotional being and lack of sensitivity makes his misinterpret many things. He notices his wife, Gretta, standing on the stairs “in a shadow” listening to D’Arcy sing a song. With a state of stillness and with an attitude of grace, as described by Joyce. It was taken that she was seemingly unaware. She was described having “colour on her cheeks”, and shining eyes. When they both head home Gabriel seems to notice that Gretta doesn’t seem as lively as she was when she was listening to the song. He described her demeanor as tired and frail. This sadness stemmed from the lost of a lover in Gretta’s past. Gabriel came to two realizations after studying his wife. He discovers that he really doesn’t know he wife at all. He’s been so selfish and egotistical that he never even asked his own wife about any of her past relationships. Gabriel then sees a darkness with death. He comes to a realization that everybody and everything living will have to die and go into the world of the dead at some point. Then he had an epiphany.
After his wife’s confesses to having a love before she met him, Gabriel comes into the actuality that he ultimately has no idea who his wife actually is. He doesn’t know how she feels, what she perceives, not even the way that she thinks. It takes a deeper form when he looks into the mirror and sees, “a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealizing his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror.” Gabriel then sees he’s not who he believes he is. He was in fact pitiful. His livelihood was more dead than it was alive. Looking through the window he connects with himself and those around him. It started the “death” of his old self. The Gabriel that was self centered and egotistical was no longer alive.
In the end, Gabriel imagines a hypothetical death of his aunt, and he makes a self-reflection about how she just passed away without a purpose. While Michael had died for love. He’s scared to have the same death as his aunt. He’s rather die with some sort of purposeful meaning. In his monologue he states. ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” I feel like this could be a metaphor for the soul dying. That the soul, whether it’s dead or alive will eventually be “erased” by the snow. His old self will be buried to become a new man. Isolation drove Gabriel into an egotistical path in life that he soon began to regret.