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The Dead and The Boarding House

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 363
  • Category: House

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The Boarding House and The Dead use light and dark imagery to depict the characters’ private lives and identities. It is in the dark where social barriers and disguises disappear. Instead what occurs is a revelation of passion (as with Polly and Doran) and truth (the spiritual awakening of Gabriel). Opposite this is the imagery of light, which is represented mainly by the candle. The candle is a symbolism of the public world. This is particularly true of The Dead where the Morkan’s dance party serves as a site and rite reliving tradition and renewing ties (despite its share of flaws and falsity).

In The Boarding House Doran’s apprehension and opposition toward marriage and Polly run contrary to his attitude during the nights of their romance. In the dark, he “scarcely knew what he was eating feeling her beside him alone…” (42). At such moments, Doran sees Polly simply the way she is, a lovely and lovable woman. Polly’s “disreputable father and her mother’s boarding house” (41) with its rather shady reputation ceases to bother him. His thoughts: “Perhaps they could be happy together…” (42) reveal hope and faith in his love and loved one.

A similar picture is present in The Dead where Gabriel “in the gloom of the hall… gazing up at his wife” awakens to the “grace and mystery” (143) of her being. He begins to relive the joyful past and reevaluate the present. “Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory” (145). Gabriel becomes possessed by a desire to affirm their love, which however, meant overpowering her: “He longed to be master of her strange mood” (148). In the end, though, Gabriel is instead overcome by the uncovering of Gretta’s secret memory of a dead beloved. Yet instead of breaking down, Gabriel’s love and identity appears to take on a new form and life: “He had never felt like that himself toward every woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love” (152).

Works Cited

Joyce, James. “The Boarding House.” Dubliners. Ed. Shane Weller. New York: Dover

            Publication, 1991. 38-43.

 “The Dead.” Weller 119-152.

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