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Vitality and Death in James Joyce’s The Dead

Vitality and Death in The Dead

In his short story The Dead, James Joyce creates a strong contrast between Gabriel, who is emotionally lifeless, and the other guests, who are physically aging and near death. Though physical mortality is inevitable, Joyce shows that emotional sterility is not, and Gabriel ultimately realizes this and decides that he must follow his passions. Throughout the story, a strong focus on death and mortality, a focus that serves as a constant reminder of our inevitable end of physical life, is prevalent in Joyce’s selection of details. In the story, the unconquerable death ultimately triumphs over life, but it brings a triumph for the central character, not a loss. Despite the presence of death, the characters’ passions and individuality oppositely flourish, an irony that Joyce dares to make humorous.

Every year Kate and Julia Morkan, two aging sisters, hold a dinner party at their house in Ireland for their relatives and music students and peers. The two ladies, often referred to as Aunts because of their relationship to the main character Gabriel Conroy, make sure to have a festive event full of dance and rich in food, although they are not wealthy. The story begins at the commencement of this party, and we first learn about Lily, the youngest person in the story, who serves as the housemaid. She is described as a growing girl, but also as “pale in complexion,” indicating weakness and frailty. Even her “tagname, that of the funereal flower, serves as a symbol of death.” Joyce comically describes the busy girl with a “hyperbolic figure of speech (‘run off her feet’), which although figurative, is offered to the reader to be accepted ‘literally,’” (Benstock 165) hinting at pending death. …

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… Gale, 1990. 239-245.

Friedrich, Gerhard. “The Perspective of Joyce’s ‘Dubliners.’” College English (March 1965) Vol. 26 No. 6. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 166-169.

Handy, William J. “’Joyce’s ‘The Dead.’” Modern Fiction: A Formalist Approach. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 183-189.

Joyce, James. “The Dead.” The Dubliners. Rpt. in The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W W Norton

Acceptance of Loss of Time in Sonnet 73 and When I have Fears

Acceptance of Loss of Time in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 and Keats’s When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be

Time spent fearing the passage of time wastes the very thing that one dreads losing. Both Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” and Keats’s “When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be” reveal the irrationality of this fear and explore different interpretations of this theme: to Keats death equates an inability to reach his potential, to accomplish what he desires; to Shakespeare death (represented in the metaphors of autumn, twilight, and ashes) will separate him from earthly, physical love. Through various rhetorical strategies and content of sub-themes, these authors ultimately address their struggle with mortality and time; their sonnets support the idea that to fear loss and death is a waste of precious time.

By telescoping the various metaphors of autumn, twilight, and ashes in “Sonnet 73, ” Shakespeare portrays the ending of time. His systematic representation of familiar concepts as symbols of time passage and models of life creates three individual paralleled sonnets that join at the poem’s conclusion to form a collaborated theme (Bloom 12).

Shakespeare begins with the broad season of autumns and gets progressively more specific as he discusses twilight, a smaller frame of reference, and eventually ashes, the one nonlinear metaphor that is the most specific of the three (Vendler 335). The first quatrain is devoted to the depiction of autumn as an ending season. These four lines are characterized by a tone of loss, emptiness, and nostalgia for the spring that represents the poet’s youth. The “boughs which shake against the cold” that were once covered in green leaves stand alone and practically empty in the col…

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…t a moment in earth’s little while:/ ‘This, too, shall pass away.’” -Lanta Wilson Smith

Work Cited

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare’s Sonnets. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. pg. 12-13 Elliott, Nathaniel

When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be,” Poetry for Students:Volume 2, Detroit: Gale, 1998.

Hirst, Wolf Z. John Keats. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1981.

Ingram, W. G. and Theodore Redpath, Ed. “Sonnet 73,” Shakespeare’s Sonnets.New York: Barnes

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