Culture Irony; Gabriel & Miss Ivors’ Interaction

One interaction I found ironic and significant from “The Dead” regarding the culture was between Gabriel and Miss Ivors when Gabriel awkwardly claims “Well we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany” (Joyce 234) to which Miss Ivors asks “And why do you go to France and Belgium…instead of visiting your own land?” (Joyce 234). Gabriel then responds that he goes there to keep in touch with languages, which then prompts Miss Ivory to ask again “…haven’t you got your own language to keep touch with..?” (Joyce 234). I found this dialogue ironic because Dubliners was published in June of 1914 and two months later, in August of 1914, Germany invaded Luxembourg and Belgium. It is ironic because James Joyce wrote Miss Ivory to foreshadow something he couldn’t have known, but only merely had an opinion on; an opinion on culture appropriation or invasion perhaps. The country Gabriel likes to go for a cycling tour in, got invaded by another he also usually visits for the tour. 

Culture in the Form of Nationalism

“- And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
– Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.
– And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with–Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
– Well, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.”

Joyce, James, and Jeri Johnson. “The Dead” Dubliners, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000, pg 149.

In the conflict between these two characters, Joyce makes each of their stances very clear: Miss Ivors is a nationalist, loyal to her country, while Gabriel does not feel that connection to his fellow Irishmen and lacks the Irish loyalty that Miss Ivors so proudly displays. Miss Ivors is proud of her culture to a degree in which she berates Gabriel for not feeling the same way, and goes as far as to call him a West Briton, basically a cultural traitor. Culture is an important theme throughout this story, and this argument shows that the function of culture in the form of nationalism reveals the ideals and values of these characters, and is likely a way for Joyce to include some of his own criticisms about Ireland and Irish culture with his uniquely ironic way of writing.

The Function of Music in Culture

“-O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim.
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face. Gabriel stood stock-still for a moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in the way of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full length, his broad, well-filled shirt-front, the face whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror and his glimmering gilt-rimmed eye-glasses. He halted a few paces from her and said:
-What about the song? Why does that make you cry?
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. A kinder note than he had intended went into his voice.
-Why, Gretta? he asked.
I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song.”

Joyce, James, and Jeri Johnson. “The Dead.” Dubliners, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000, p. 172.

This passage shows Gretta’s emotional response to a traditional Irish song, The Lass of Aughrim. This song reminded Gretta of a boy from her younger years in Galway who died for her, and this reminder brought up feelings for her. This reveals that a function of culture in music is to create and hold memories. The music linked to culture will bring about memories for people, such as from their first time hearing the music or a specific memory they have related to it.

Separation of Literature and Politics— Is that even possible?

“He wanted to say that literature was above politics. But they were friends of many years’ standing and their careers had been parallel, first at the University and then as teachers: he could not risk a grandiose phrase with her. He continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile and murmured lamely that he saw nothing political in writing reviews of books” (Joyce 148). 

Joyce, James, and Jeri Johnson. Dubliners (Oxford World’s Classics). Annotated, Oxford UP, 2008.

I feel as though Joyce is critiquing Gabriel’s claim of how he is able to separate his work/writing from politics. Gabriel’s stance may have stemmed from the political turmoil in Ireland during that time, and thus leading to the culture of silence or avoidance of such difficult topics. Since Joyce is known for realism and “scrupulous meanness”, I think he would have disagreed with this attitude, as the ugliness of politics is tied in with every day life. I think for him, “literature was above politics” would not be real literature. He also emphasizes Gabriel’s own uncertainty and insecurity about his claim with words such as “murmured lamely”.

A Little Cloud

“As he sat at his desk in the King’s Inns he thought what changes those eight years had brought.”

James Joyce. Dubliners. Grant Richards 1914, 65.

Little Chandler seems to be reminiscing on how his friend use to be and who he has become today. So much has seemed to change within those eight short years.

Perspective in “Araby”

“Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration” (Joyce, 35).

James Joyce. Dubliners. Grant Richards 1914.

The narrator expresses his confused feelings for a girl he barely knows. However, the narrator does know that just by how he feels whenever he sees her, he can not help but feel some type of way, perhaps love, towards this girl. We can see how even her name makes his heart stop, and he is confused by these feelings. We can also see how he doesn’t know the future, by this the narrator means he doesn’t know if he will talk to her or if he will ever get a chance to be with her.