Illusion vs. Reality
In The Dead by James Joyce, illusion versus reality is a major theme
of the novella. Joyce continuously reveals illusion versus reality to the
reader through his expressive characters. In The Dead, the characters are
divided into three main groups: the Conroy marriage, the aunts, and the
guests at the party. Gabriel and Gretta Conroy, the two main characters of
the novella, are the only characters in the story that are married. Illusion
versus reality is used as a major theme in The Dead and is evident through
the Conroy’s marriage, the aunts, and the guests at the party.
The Conroy’s marriage appeared to be the average, happily married
Couple, but in reality Gretta and Gabriel Conroy barely knew each other.
The Conroys had been married for many years and had children together.
The other guests at the party seemed to admire their marriage, since they
were the only married couple at the party. In Gretta’s younger days, she
truly loved a boy named Michael, and although Michael is dead she still
loves him. At the end of the story, Gabriel realizes, “…how poor a part he,
her husband, had played in her life” (364). The love between Gabriel and
Gretta can never compare to the love that Michael and Gretta shared in the
Aunt Julia and Aunt Kate also reveal the illusion versus reality theme
to the reader. The aunts pretend to be happy at the annual holiday party, but
both Aunt Julia and Aunt Kate are older, unmarried, and lonely. In fact, the
party was the most excitement the aunts would have all year long. Since
both aunts are unmarried, Gabriel, their nephew and the only man in their
lives, performed all of the manly duties.
Illusion versus reality is once again revealed through the guests at the
annual, holiday party. All the guests pretend they are having a wonderful
time, but some wish they were elsewhere. Gabriel would like to be outside