“Shades” – The Dead

“Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.”

Joyce, James, and Jeri Johnson. “The Dead” Dubliners, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000, pg 421

The questions Joyce presents to the reader about the permanence of the dead on those living are haunting in many ways. Becoming something immaterial or ambiguous in the face of mortality allows one to connect with those who have passed. In doing this, Gabriel has become closer to his wife than ever before, claiming he finally feels true love for her. Whatever he felt before has changed, as has his perspective on those around him; they are all part of the ‘flickering, grey world’ that Joyce teases at the end of his tale.