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Human Identity in James Joyce’s The Dead

Human Identity in The Dead

The short story, “The Dead,” is the final story in Dubliners, but it is characteristic of a number of previous stories. In the first story, “The Sisters,” a young boy is confronted with the death of an influencing figure in his life. The women in “Eveline” and “Clay” are haunted by death: Eveline, by the memory of her mother, and Maria, by the omen of her own death. “A Painful Case” is the story of the tragic death of a rejected woman. A dead political figure is the basis of “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” All these stories revolve around characters’ pains and experiences with death. James Joyce’s “The Dead” exhibits the capacity of someone’s death to dishearten one in their future relations and experiences.

This short story gives voice to the emotions of a husband whose wife’s romantic tie to a man who died years ago forces him to realize that there is a chapter of his wife’s life of which he has no part. Gabriel Conroy and his wife, Gretta, attend the “Misses Morkan’s Annual Dance,” held by his two aunts, Kate and Julian Morkan. At the dance, Gretta is twice reminded of her past love, Michael Furey. First, a friend invites Gretta and Gabriel to Galway, the place where she had had her relationship with Michael. Secondly, she is reminded by a song sung by Mr. D’Arcy, “The Lass of Aughrim,” the song Michael had sung to her on their long walks through the country. Gabriel, oblivious to her affections and anticipating a romantic evening, brings her to a hotel perceiving that “they had escaped from their lives and duties.” When he questions Gretta’s apathetic mood, she tells him the tragic story of Michael ‘s illness and how …

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…eward for their bravery. Gabriel is faced with this question when he pictures his Aunt Julia and Michael Furey. Michael had died with passion, while his Aunt Julia will just slowly wither away. Gabriel is concerned he may have this some fate, to die an unremarkable death.

Dubliners is significant in various literary and intellectual ways. A separation between author and the story is exercised in some stories, so the author must show details in talk and action, rather than making comments, to conjure the intended images and messages. One must rely on personal experiences in order to establish their own sentiments about the significance of the experiences of the characters in the stories. James Joyce makes universal generalizations about human identity through his knowledge of one city, Dublin

Death of a Salesman is a Tragedy as Defined in Miller’s Tragedy and the Common Man

Death of a Salesman is a Tragedy as Defined in Miller’s Tragedy and the Common Man

In Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller discusses his definition and criteria for tragedy as they apply to the common man. The criteria and standards proposed by Miller may be used to evaluate his timeless work, Death of A Salesman.

The first major standard of tragedy set forth is: “…if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the high-bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms.” All persons regardless of background, nobility stature, rank, or pretended or actual social division can innately empathize with the tragic hero. In the case of Willy Loman there is a certain familiarity. He is the proverbial man down the block; indeed we may say in viewing the play common man is empathizing with common man. Willy Loman is real. Where as some may remark, “I know someone like him,” perhaps they may even see themselves in him. Miller’s subtle wordplay of “Loman” and “layman” is interesting in this regard. It is our familiarity with Willy Loman that is the endearing quality which draws us closer to him. Through, identification with his struggles and pains we achieve an appreciation of his plight. This identification is universal. The universality of identification is, among those reading or viewing the play, a bonding force for persons of every station. Miller’s success in this point is bred from our own pathos for Willie Loman.

Another point by Miller is that, “the tragic feeling is invoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is willing to lay down his life… to secure one thing- his sense of personal dignity.” Willie Loman is tha…

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…mething greater than himself, his image, or his success. He is motivated by his love for his son. Therefore, since his primary focus is beyond himself, it consequently elevates him. He taps into and is accordingly clothed with the grandeur tragedy.

Considering the points discussed here in this paper, which is by no means a comprehensive analysis of Miller’s essay, several questions are raised in my mind. Did Arthur Miller provide us with this essay as a response or defense of Death of a Salesman? Is he trying to justify his work by remolding the definition of tragedy to justify and elevate this play? Whatever the case it is clear that Death of a Salesman fits the model set forth by Miller in Tragedy and the Common Man.

Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man.” Weales, Gerald, ed. Death of a Salesman: Text and Criticism. New York: Penguin Books 1996.

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