In “The Dead” by James Joyce, the character, Gabriel is finding out who he is through his relationship with his wife and how he will handle his Aunt Julia’s death. Joyce illustrates these things through imagery, motif of time, and diction. Imagery is used throughout the excerpt in order for the reader to understand the feeling of death that Gabriel experiences. Gabriel is watching his wife “while she slept” and listening “to her deep-drawn breath”. He is watching his wife sleep as if she was on the verge of dying.
As Gabriel watches his wife sleeping “as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife” can represent the death of the love and passion in their marriage, if there was any in the beginning. Joyce has the images in the room exemplify the immorality Gabriel felt. The string of the petticoat “dangle[s] to the floor” and one boot is “limp” while the other is “fallen down”. When he imagines the future, Gabriel envisions himself “dressed in black” with the blinds “drawn down” as Aunt Kate is “crying”, “telling him how Julia died”.
The fact that all Gabriel could think of to comfort his aunt was “lame and useless” words, illustrates his mental passiveness. Gabriel’s inconsiderate, laid back behavior could be symbolic of the title. The motif of time is used in the passage was Gabriel is in the present thinking about the past. Time moves Gabriel and the reader throughout different experiences. Gabriel takes a “few moments” to watch his wife and evaluate his relationship with her.
He reminisces when his wife had her “then” “girlish beauty”, possibly indicating Gabriel and his wife are aging. Seeing his wife as “no longer beautiful” with “strange, friendly pity” could indicate that he may not love her because his pity was friendly instead of passionate. In addition, it seems as if Gabriel is somewhat insulting his wife by saying, “he did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.
” Gabriel’s thought about his wife’s beauty declining beauty is thoughtless and inconsiderate. His inconsiderate behavior with his wife ties into the future as Gabriel trying to think of words to console his Aunt Kate when Aunt Julia dies, but only find “lame and useless ones”. Gabriel watching his wife sleeping could foreshadow the death of Aunt Julia because of the stillness of his wife as she slept as it “hardly pained” him and the sense of doom the room reinforces.