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Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2021

Epiphany as a climax of the plot in the story is often used by writers to emphasize the change a character overcomes. James Joyce utilized this strong element of a character’s self-learning and understanding life in his short story under the title “The Dead.” On the background of trivial worries, conversations, and desires, the main character acknowledges the relativeness of the meaning of life that is nothing more than a memory other people will have about an individual after death.

The author draws the picture of an ordinary Christmas gathering of family and friends at the beginning of the story. Gabriel and Gretta Conroy are the welcomed guests in the house who seem to be experiencing the events of the night in different directions. Gabriel encounters several disturbing conversations and anxiety about his speech during the party but anticipates the night he and his wife are about to have in a hotel.

However, his desire is erased by the unexpected memory Gretta shares with him about a young man whom she passionately loved and who had died in the middle of their relationship. The thoughts Gabriel has after his wife’s words become an epiphany for him when he realizes that the life’s meaning is in death, that everyone alive will some time die and become nothing else than a memory. Therefore, in Gabriel’s opinion, it is better to have life suddenly ended on the pitch of passionate living than to suffer long senseless existence.

Thus, James Joyce presents a sudden revelation of the meaning of life that the central character experiences due to the sensible memory of his wife. Resembling the title of the short story, Gabriel discovers that all the living beings are nothing more than soon-to-be dead whose life will remain nothing but a memory. Therefore, it is worthless to live life without passionate experiences that bring meaning to the overall existence.

Avey Johnson’s Ancestry in Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow

Paule Marshall’s novel under the title Praisesong for the Widow is a synthesized journey of the main character Avey Johnson who is traveling to the islands in the plot also makes a journey to her past. Remembering her life in the marriage and her childhood, Avey restores connection with her African-American ancestry and cultural background that helps her to identify herself as a personality. Reunited with the environment where she culturally belongs, the main character changes her life and devotes herself to upbringing her grandchildren with respect to their heritage.

The journey of the widow begins when she has a dream of her aunt. The dream becomes a reason for Avey to take a cruise and travel. The change of environment makes the main character accept her long kept feelings of grief about her late husband. Starting with the memories of their marriage, Avey begins to recollect her childhood and eventually remembers her ancestry. All the feelings and flashbacks she had been suppressing in her consciousness become very significant.

Step by step, she refreshes the images of her home and neighborhood, as well as the events related to slavery. All these journeys into the past evolve on the background of the actual trip symbolizing the change in life that has an inevitable effect on Avey. Perceiving the heritage she had abandoned, the main character decides to make the decisive step, move from her place of living and bring up her family as proud members of the African-American community with a rich culture.

In conclusion, the journey Avey takes in the novel Praisesong for the Widow is a resemblance of her conscious journey filled with memories that help her find herself and become reunited with her ancestry. The lack of emotional relief she suffered after her husband’s death finally finds its way out. The heroine succeeds in accepting the inner strive to rejoin her culture and realizes its significance in the life of any person.

Kochan’s life in Confessions of a Mask

Yukio Mishima’s novel Confessions of a Mask is a description of the life of a Japanese young man who goes through the many stages of self-understanding on the background of controversial historical and political events. Rich in insights and psychological analysis, the novel portrays a story of the life of a person forced to adjust to the demanding society. The homosexual nature of the main character becomes the part of his being that needs to be hidden under the mask and ultimately leads to the man’s perception of the world as the one filled with masks without any true personalities.

Remembering his childhood, Kochan recollects the strict methods of upbringing his grandmother utilized to help him grow as a typical boy. However, despite such attitude, the boy tried to discover his personality on his struggling with the perception of his fragile body structure. School memories the author presents also serve as a proof of Kochan’s struggle to become an average representative of his environment and the failure to become one.

Trying his best to suppress his true identity, the main character hides it under the mask. The war times in his youth bring the idea of violence into Kochan’s life and amplify the tendency to intentionally experiencing physical pain. Ultimately, all the attempts of Kochan to prove himself that he is like everybody else fail when he understands that he cannot force himself into loving a woman.

The life of a homosexual man in the uncertain historical environment of Japan is a challenge. Trying to fit into the society and block any signs of being not normal, Kochan wears a mask that hides his true identity. He fails to acquire any characteristics of a usual male representative of the country which cause harmful effect on the quality of his life. Wearing a mask himself, the main character is sure that all the people are insincere and hide their true nature too, thus making a world a complicated place to live.

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"Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce." IvyPanda, 15 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/gabriel-conroys-epiphany-in-the-dead-by-james-joyce/.

1. IvyPanda. "Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce." July 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gabriel-conroys-epiphany-in-the-dead-by-james-joyce/.


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IvyPanda. "Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce." July 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gabriel-conroys-epiphany-in-the-dead-by-james-joyce/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce." July 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gabriel-conroys-epiphany-in-the-dead-by-james-joyce/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Gabriel Conroy’s Epiphany in “The Dead” by James Joyce'. 15 July.

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