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"The Dead" and the Generosity of the Word

Vincent P. Pecora
PMLA
Vol. 101, No. 2 (Mar., 1986), pp. 233-245
DOI: 10.2307/462406
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462406
Page Count: 13
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Abstract

Readers of Dubliners are usually well prepared for a leap out of the suffocating world Joyce displays there, for a promise, however ambiguous or mundane, of escape. But in a story like "The Dead" the production of a desire for escape at all costs may be the crucial interpretive problem, for it inevitably stimulates our mystified identification at the end with a character whose apparent awakening is itself socially conditioned. Unless interpretation radically reevaluates the cultural codification of reflective consciousness, we remain locked within a Christian paradigm of self-knowledge as truth that transcends material oppositions through selflessness-through the insistent generosity that punctuates this story. Gabriel's concluding "insight" and humility may then only reproduce an ideology that Joyce cruelly traces throughout bourgeois Dublin life: to escape his constant humiliation by others, Gabriel must finally humiliate himself.

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