Tag Archives: James Joyce

The Dead

Just before Sunday service
Just before Sunday service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By James Joyce, 35 pages.

This story took a good 20 pages to gain my interest, but the end was worth it. The story takes place on the night of the Misses Morkan’s annual dance, which is in the wintertime, I think between Christmas and New Year. The Misses Morkans are three elderly ladies who live in Dublin and have lots of friends and family.

Irish hospitality is praised highly in this work. The Irish scenes, social habits, and conversations reminded me of my own family a long long time ago in Texas.

In my last blog entry about James Joyce, I mentioned a couple of rules of storytelling. Here, I am reminded of yet another rule, which is when it snows, somebody dies—or died. Of course, the title foreshadows this as well. All through the story, I’m thinking: ok, who gets it?

I don’t really like this “rule” of storytelling. I adore snow, and I would like to find (or tell) a story that resists this rule.

The story’s tone and pacing change radically after the party is over when everyone is heading home. Our protagonist, Gabriel, who seems like a pretty good guy, but perhaps has a bit of an inferiority complex, is excited to finally be alone with his wife. The writing really picks up here, and for me becomes a real page turner.

Oddly, when I got to the last paragraph I realized I had already read it, the last paragraph, not the story. The paragraph was given as an example in one of my writing books. And indeed, it is a very nice paragraph. This is where writing truly becomes art.

Sad, sad love.


James Joyce, 1 photographic print, b&w, cartes...
James Joyce, 1 photographic print, b&w, cartes-de-visites, 9.2 x 6.1 on mount 10.5 x 6.5 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By James Joyce; 6 pages.

As I read Araby, I was reminded that in every story the main character has to want something. In Araby, the young man wants to impress a girl. The girl mentions a bazaar that she cannot go to and recommends it to our love-struck narrator/protagonist. He tells her that if he is able to go to the bazaar, he will bring something back for her.

I am not sure, and shame on me, I didn’t check, but I think that Araby was the name of the bazaar and it was held in Dublin to benefit the Jervis St. Hospital.

The next thing I remember about the dos of story writing is that complications must be thrown in the path of the protagonist, and so they are in Araby.

As I reflect on the story, a third do of story writing comes to mind, and this one is that everything in the story must count. There must be no irrelevant details. So here I am stumped and if one of my readers can enlighten me, I will be grateful. But what was the relevance to the detail that a priest had once been a tenant in our narrators’ family’s house? And what was the relevance that he had died in the back drawing-room? And why was it mentioned that our narrator was in the drawing-room in the paragraph preceding our narrator’s first conversation with the girl he liked so much? Was he praying in the room? Did the room have special powers that led to his conversation with the girl?

Or was it simply that priests are supposed to have a vow of poverty and the way our protagonist wants to win the love of the girl is with a gift?

I’m stumped. I do get a vivid image of twilight and children playing in the streets. And I have to admit that the mention of the poem “The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed” in which the Arab imagines his heartbreak after selling his favorite horse, was good foreshadowing.

I have the impression that in the end the narrator was humiliated because he had been forced to wait so long to go to the bazaar and the only items left were far beyond his means—thus, a present for the girl was impossible. Oh sad, sad love.

All in all, I found this story hard to understand with a casual read. I felt like Joyce wanted me to come to conclusions that I couldn’t quite make it to. Maybe in the end I got there.