Italo Svevo remarked in 1927 that 'when Joyce has written a page of prose he thinks that he has paralleled some page of music' (Hodgart and Bauerle, 96). Joyce's cultivation of musical form and a stratified motival texture in his prose are already apparent in 1907, in `The Dead.' The story falls into brief sections, each having its own musical structure - for instance, ternary form (A-B-A) - and each concluding with a firm cadence. The systematic use of motifs in prose fiction was begun by devotees of Bayreuth such as Josephin Péladan (La décadence latine) and George Moore (The Lake) and it was brought to perfection by Proust. Alfred Lorenz showed that in addition to the leitmotif scheme, Wagner's music-dramas exhibited a structure of successive organized segments, balanced against each other across the entire length of the work (see Lorenz 1924-33); the same is true of Proust and Joyce.
'The Dead' was written in Rome, a city in which the presence of the dead and of the past is uniquely overpowering. Joyce visited Shelley's tomb there with Nora, who 'responded with a string of morbid romantic associations that moved him deeply' (Maddox, 75). These concerned her dead sweetheart, the model for Michael Furey in 'The Dead'. In the notes for Exiles we read: 'Moon - Shelley's grave in Rome. He is rising from it: blond. She weeps for him. He has fought in vain for an ideal and died killed by the world. Yet he rises. Graveyard at Rahoon by moonlight where Bodkin's grave is. [...] He is dark, unrisen, killed by love and life, young. The earth holds him' (Joyce 1992b:346). These notes also touch on the maternal attitude of Gretta to Michael, suggested in 'The Dead' (Spoo, 104-9): 'Shelley whom she has held in her womb or grave'; 'She weeps over Rahoon too, over him whom her love has killed, the dark boy whom, as the earth, she embraces in death and disintegration. He is her buried life, her past' (347).
Joyce spent January to September 1907 mulling over the story, a nine-months pregnancy producing his mature identity as an artist. He was sick, and homesick, much of the time and dictated the final lines to his brother in a state of faintness. 'The Dead' and the immediately succeeding composition, the first three chapters of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are the first examples of Joyce's characteristic supersaturated, exhaustive motival textures, which are so rich that almost any association they suggest will turn out to have been thought of already by the author, who has deftly integrated it in his web. As in Beethoven (see Adorno, 31-54), the individual motifs have little substance in themselves, they are ephemeral, fleeting; but they gain their power from the integration into the whole; at the limit every single element in the text could acquire motival status, so that it lifts off from the mere arbitrariness of empirical reportage or invention to sail into the space of a totally integrated, reflexive composition.
Rome's palimpsest character, its layers upon layers of past epochs, is reflected in the honeycombed - or rather, catacombed - prose of the story. The Roman soil is a vast cemetery, and Joyce's prose is full of buried references to death. The enclosed spaces of the story form a rich cluster of death-imagery. Tracing the threads of imagery is like solving a crossword puzzle. The aesthetic merits of such ingenuity can be debated, or could be if it did not put in question conventional aesthetic expectations. 'This kind of repetition is intentionally strained and verges on the compulsive clowning of Joyce's later writings... It produces a droll effect of simulated gothic terror' (Spoo, 95). But a profound sense of the uncanny is generated by the undecidability of these motifs: we can never be sure we have identified them all or have interpreted them adequately or have avoided the perils of over-interpretation. Thus the text is mined at every point and we cannot settle down to a complete mastery of its meaning. Gabriel is Hermes, the interpreter, as suggested by the description of his hair 'brushed in a long curve behind his ears where it curled slightly beneath the groove left by his hat' (Joyce 1992a:178), and he is a frustrated interpreter much of the time. The reader shares this interpretative frustration when faced with unexplained incidents. Is there a hidden meaning, for instance, in the following: 'Lily came forward with three potatoes, which she had reserved for him' (199). Recalling how Gabriel played the part of his angelic namesake in the earlier annunciation scene (177-8), are we now to think of the three gifts presented to the infant Christ on the Feast of the Epiphany?
The principal enclosed space is 'the dark gaunt house on Usher's Island' (175). The address, a quay on the south bank of the Liffey, recalls the isolated mansion in Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher,' whose inhabitants are the living dead. The snow further insulates the house: 'we're in for a night of it' (177). This house and its rooms form the culmination of a long series of drab houses and rooms in Dubliners: the priest's house in 'The Sisters'; 'the high cold empty gloomy rooms' in 'Araby' (25); the dusty room in which Eveline languishes; the boarding house bedroom in which Polly seduces Bob Doran, in a parody of La Bohème (62; Hodgart and Bauerle, 93); Little Chandler's meanly furnished room (78); Mr Duffy's 'old sombre house' (103); the setting of 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room'; and Mr Kernan's stuffy bedroom in 'Grace'. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, too, is very much a novel of rooms: in Chapter One, the studyhall, chapel, dormitory, infirmary bedroom, classroom, and rector's room in Clongowes and the dining room in Bray; in Chapter Two, Uncle Charles's outhouse in Blackrock; the parlour in the 'bare cheerless house' which is their next abode and its 'bare upper room' (Joyce 1992c:68, 73); `his aunt's kitchen' and `the narrow breakfast room high up in the darkwindowed house' (70); the room of the children's party; the chapel (doubling as theatre), vestry, shed, and classroom in Belvedere College; the hotel bedroom and the university anatomy theatre in Cork; his bedroom (probably in a new abode); the `warm and lightsome' room of the prostitute (107); in Chapter Three, the schoolroom and chapel of Belvedere, his bedroom, and the chapel in which he confesses; In Chapter Four, the director's room and the kitchen at home; in Chapter Five, the physics theatre, his bedroom (another one; the family have moved again ).
Kelleher suggests that the Morkans are identical with the senile Ellen and her sister (Joyce 1992c:70-71) and chronologically this fits with the recollection in Ulysses 13:139-40: 'his godmother Miss Kate Morkan in the house of her dying sister Miss Julia Morkan at 15 Usher's Island' (Joyce 1986:547). Kelleher deduces that the Morkans' party must have been held about 1892, but all the other evidence in Ulysses(its references to Browne, Gretta, Gabriel and his brother the curate) points to the date of January 6, 1904, which is confirmed by external evidence such as the Conference on the University Question held that very day in Galway (cf. 189) and the opening of Mignon in Dublin (cf. 199) the next day, January 7 (Torchiana, 225, 238). The picture is further complicated by the fact that the models for the pair were Joyce's grand-aunts, the Flynns, whose name is retained in 'The Sisters', set in 1895. Kate and Julia, Eliza and Nannie, Ellen and her unnamed sister: there is something uncanny about this multiplication of identities and about their chronological mobility. It is as if Joyce had brought back to life the great-aunt Flynn who died several years earlier in order to create a sense of a past that refuses to die. Even her startling prowess as a singer intensifies this ghostliness: 'To follow the voice, without looking at the singer's face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight' (193). When Bloom recollects Julia he falls into 'The Dead''s rhetoric of last ends: 'Great song of Julia Morkan's. Kept her voice up to the very last. Pupil of Michael Balfe's, wasn't she?' (Ulysses 8:417-18; Joyce 1986:133). The composer Balfe lived from 1808 to 1870. All the operas referred to in 'The Dead' belong to Balfe's time: Lucrezia Borgia (1833); I Puritani (1835); Maritana (1845); Dinorah (1859); Mignon (1866). The topic of 'The Dead' was first suggested to Joyce by a letter from Stanislas recounting a performance of Thomas Moore's 'Oh, Ye Dead' in which 'It sounded as if the dead were whimpering and jealous of the happiness of the living' (Torchiana, 223). Is Michael Furey the only whimpering ghost in the story?
The Morkans' house is vaguely threatening. In a subliminal allegory, the Misses Morkan are the three Morrigans or Mor-rigna (singular, Mor-rigan, great queen) of Irish mythology, who 'try to undermine the male armies, to demoralize them or otherwise trick them into fulfilling their will' (Condren, 35). The first syllable of the name Morkan also signifies death (mors, mort). The Misses Morkan usher their guests into tomb-like enclosures: 'Julia, said Aunt Kate summarily, and here's Mr Browne and Miss Furlong. Take them in, Julia, with Miss Daly and Miss Power'.
Browne is associated with death (Kelleher, 418, 432). 'To punctuate almost every scene at the party with something like a full stop, Joyce uses Mr Browne as might Holbein in his series of woodcuts, The Dance of Death (Torchiana, 226). This is not quite right: Browne appears at the close of seven of the twenty-four sections into which the story falls (sections 5, 6, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18 as listed below). He does not figure at all in the other sections, though he is mentioned in section 17 (218) as part of a series of recalls of the party toward the close of the story. When Aunt Kate and Mary Jane murmur: 'Browne is out there... Browne is everywhere... He is very attentive... He has been laid on here like the gas' (207), they are echoing the rhyme: 'Death is here, death is there, death is busy everywhere' (Torchiana, 230). `Close the door, somebody, Mrs Malins will get her death of cold' (207): one seeks to close death out, but it penetrates any closure, as the gaslight pervades the hotel bedroom and the snow taps on the windowpane in the final scene. The word `close' itself is fraught with ironic intimations of mortality: Gabriel, in his speech, 'hastened to his close' (206). The association of Browne and gas is enriched inUlysses 6:606-12: 'What swells him up that way? Molly gets swelled after cabbbage. Air of the place maybe. Looks full up of bad gas. Must be an infernal lot of bad gas round the place. Butchers, for instance: they get like raw beefsteaks. Who was telling me? Mervyn Browne. Down in the vaults of saint Werburgh's lovely old organ hundred and fifty they have to bore a hole in the coffins sometimes to let out the bad gas and burn it. Out it rushes: blue. One whiff of that and you're a doner' (U:85-6). The real-life Mervyn A. Browne `is listed in Thom's 1904 as 'professor of music and organist' (Gifford and Seidman, 118), and was a neighbour of the Joyce family at one time (Kelleher, 432). Many of the death-motifs of 'The Dead' are carried over to the 'Hades' chapter of Ulysses in this way: words such as 'mortal', 'rattled' and 'toddled' (German Tod, death); references to various ghostly dead and gone ones, or to their statues, notably that of O'Connell; enclosed spaces such as the cramped carriage in which Dedalus, Bloom, Cunningham and Power are ferried to the graveyard; the black and white colour-scheme; the various stoppings, falterings, and waitings that punctuate the narrative; the social failures of Bloom that recall those of Gabriel,
As a Protestant, one of 'the other persuasion' (195), Browne can figure as an uncanny outsider. When Gabriel, in West Briton style, borrows a cadence from a Cromwellian tract by Milton ('whose fame the world will not willingly let die') it is Browne who cries, `Hear, hear!' (204-5; see Hogan, 95). His jokes are curiously obscure, and disturb by obscene suggestion: `I'm the man for the ladies... You know, Miss Morkan, the reason they are so fond of me is -' (182); `I'm like the famous Mrs Cassidy' (183)'; 'Well, I hope, Miss Morkan, said Mr Browne, that I'm brown enough for you because, you know, I'm all brown' (201). As a vulgarian despite his attentive gentlemanliness, he discomfortingly straddles two worlds; and as the oldest man at the party he is nearest to death. Browne moves with sinister speed: he 'at once led the three young ladies into the back room' (182). He 'led his charges' to the coffin-shaped sideboard and 'invited them all, in jest, to some ladies' punch, hot, strong and sweet' (183). Browne bestows gifts which are Gift (poison): 'Now, then, Teddy, I'm going to fill you out a good glass of lemonade just to buck you up'; `Mr Browne, having first called attention to a disarray in his dress, filled out and handed him a full glass of lemonade' (185) - the repetitions here and the insistence on proper dress suggest a deathly ritual. Alcohol carries virtues both of life and death in this story, underlined by Browne's remark as he takes a `trial sip' of the whisky: `God help me, he said, smiling, it's the doctor's orders.' Insipid lemonade, paradoxically, may carry a deathly potency. The three young ladies fall under Browne's deathly spell, `swaying their bodies to and fro, with nervous jerks of their shoulders.' The heat of the punch and of Mr Browne's `hot face' increase the sense of oppressive enclosure here.
This is broken by the `red-faced young woman' crying `Quadrilles!' `Close on her heels,' Aunt Kate clamours for `Two gentlemen and three ladies, Mary Jane!' (184). Mary Janes instantly couples Mr Bergin with Miss Power and Mr Kerrigan with Miss Furlong. But this is not enough. Kate cries again: `Three ladies, Mary Jane' and Mary Jane recruits Miss Daly: `really we're so short of ladies tonight.' The semblance of mating rituals here echoes Julia's song `Arrayed for the Bridal,' with its subliminal undertone, `arrayed for the funeral.' Browne stars as Julia's escort in that scene, as if she were being wedded to death (193).
In another dim allegory, Gabriel is identified with the prehistoric King of Ireland, Conaire, in the ninth-century text The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel (summarized in Smith, 149-55). The house on Usher's Island recalls the treacherous hostel in several respects. It is there that Lily's lower class Dublin accent - not Connaught, as Torchiana, anxious to associate Lily with the Lass of Aughrim, implausibly suggests (Torchiana, 227) - transforms Conroy into Con-er-roy/Conaire (177). There, too, he is transfixed by the gaze of Molly Ivors, representing the witch Cailb who 'gives Conaire the evil eye' (Kelleher, 421). Four sentences beginning with 'well' (189) echo Conaire's 'Well, O woman' in the legend (Kelleher, 422). When Conaire makes light of Cailb's name (compare Gabriel's dismissive `the girl or woman, or whatever she was,' 191), she reels off many other names, all of earth or war goddesses, including that of Macha, one of the three Morrigans. Molly's remark, `I have a crow to pluck with you' (187), echoes Cailb's words: `neither fell nor flesh of thine shall escape from the place into which thou hast come, save what birds will ber away in their claws' (Smith, 151). Conaire is bound by a taboo forbidding him to hunt or kill birds; after Molly's discourteous departure, Gabriel as if taking revenge breaks this taboo, declaring himself `ready to carve a flock of geese' (197). He breaks another taboo, mentioned by Kelleher, against staying in a house where light from inside can be seen outside (203: `gazing up at the lighted windows'). Freddy Malins, rubbing his left eye (185, 186) corresponds to `Fer Caille, the churl of cropped hair, one hand, and one eye in the Da Derga tale' and his mother could be the `hag wife' of the tale (Torchiana, 231).
Humdrum, tawdry, or positively bleak rooms confine Stephen Dedalus and the other Dubliners and breed a desire to get out or to escape: Stephen's restless walks; Eveline's and Little Chandler's dreams of foreign places; Gabriel's excursions to the continent, Gretta's harking after the West - `I'd love to see Galway again' (191) - and Mary Jane's wish to hear Caruso - `I'd give anything to hear Caruso sing' (200). The rooms in the Morkans' abode are of the same quality: the little pantry and the corn-factor's office (the dead nourish the corn) on the ground floor; the bathroom upstairs; the back room, scene of the dinner, and the drawing-room, scene of the dancing. A reference to `the upper room of the Antient Concert Rooms' (176) reinforces associations of stifling gentility (the precious spelling of `Antient') and pervasive mortality (the upper room of the Last Supper). Lily conducts gentlemen into the pantry, while the aunts conduct the ladies into another enclosed space: they `had thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies' dressing-room' (175).
Gabriel's sense of entrapment in these rooms is suggested throughout. The pantry is a sepulchre: it is illumined by gas, symbolic of death throughout the story: `The gas in the pantry made her look still paler'; the stamping overhead seems that of the feet of the living on a grave: `He looked up at the pantry ceiling, which was shaking with the stamping and shuffling of feet on the floor overhead'; and Lily's folding of his overcoat suggests the ritual disposal of a gravecloth: `folding his overcoat carefully at the end of a shelf (177) - one recalls the linen cloths of John 20:5-7. Indeed all the clothes in the story can be seen as cerements imprisoning their wearers. Gabriel's overcoat is a `snow-stiffened frieze' through which cold air escapes `from crevices and folds' `with a squeaking noise' as of ghosts (177); this gives a sinister overtone to `struggling into his overcoat' (207). Other accoutrements suggest a man buried within a conventional identity: his waistcoat which he pulls down tightly (178); `his broad well-filled shirt-front' (219) and `glimmering gilt-rimmed eye-glasses' (220). He imposes the same protective casing on others: the `green shades for Tom's eyes' and the `diving suit' imagined by Gretta (180). Our attention is drawn to the heavy clothing of Molly Ivors (187, 196), Mr Browne (207), and Mr D'Arcy, who comes from the pantry `fully swathed and buttoned' (213). Gretta took `three mortal hours to dress herself' (176); after a reference to her `getting on her things' (208) we see her dress with its funereal panels `which the shadow made appear black and white' (211).
Gabriel next `waited outside the drawing-room door' (178), brooding to the sound of `the indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles' (179); then after the conversational waltz on the landing (in which Gabriel is wrong-footed), Aunt Kate tells Gabriel to `slip down' (182; a sinister phrase, like `run off her feet' or `fallen flat,' 175) the stairs to look after Freddy; next we see him `piloting Freddy Malins across the landing' (184) into the back room, as if collecting a dead soul for the ministrations of Browne at Aunt Kate's behest. She then pilots him: `But come on, Gabriel, into the drawing-room' (185).
This room oppresses Gabriel: 'Gabriel's eyes, irritated by the floor, which glittered with beeswax under the heavy chandelier, wandered to the wall above the piano. A picture of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet hung there and beside it was a picture of the two murdered princes in the Tower' (186). The walls are adorned with scenes of death in dark hues (`red, blue and brown wools'). Romeo and Juliet links up with the doomed love of Furey for Gretta; his appearance in the garden outside Gretta's window (222) is an equivalent of the balcony scene; the murdered princes allude to Gabriel and his brother, imprisoned by their mother's dour ambitions. After the lancers, he goes to Mrs Malins in `a remote corner of the room' (190), remote because she is near to death. Then he `retired into the embrasure of the window' (192), a liminal space, which brings him near to the world of snow that will embrace him at story's end. His sense of confinement leads him to long for the cold snowy spaces outside; subliminally, he longs for death (cf. 224: `Better pass boldly into that other world'). He is recalled by `a murmur in the room' as Browne and Julia enter (193). Moving from the drawing-room to the back room (now the supper-room) he is detained on the landing by the scene of Molly Ivors' departure. Once again Aunt Kate dictates his movements: `There's everyone waiting in there, stage to let, and nobody to carve the goose' (197). As he stands to make his speech he feels oppressed by the gaze of the living: `Meeting a row of upturned faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier' (203), and again thinks of the pure air outside. In his speech he mourns that he is living in `a less spacious age' than that of the `dead and gone great ones' (204).
In addition to the rooms, the `bare hallway' (175), the stairs with its banisters and the landing are given thematic saliency. When the aunts `came toddling down the dark stairs' (177) there is a remote suggestion of descending toward death. Miss Ivors' 'Beannacht libh' (blessings be with you) as she `ran down the staircase' may be a euphemism for a witch's curse; and when Gabriel `stared blankly down the staircase' (196) one sense that underlying his present discomfiture is the deeper one of having to face his mortality. The stairs is a liminal place between life and death as Gretta listens to `The Lass of Aughrim'. Gabriel is `in a dark part of the hall gazing up the staircase' and Gretta is `in the shadow also' (210) - she has gone farther than he toward the world of the dead, a kind of Alcestis or Eurydice, and her whole body is enveloped in its shadow, silence, and immobility.
The story abounds in coffin-shaped objects, such as `the old square piano in the back room' (176). The laying of the tables suggests a funeral ritual: `The middle of the room was occupied by two square tables placed end to end, and on these Aunt Julia and the caretaker (undertaker) were straightening and smoothing a large cloth' (182). The sideboard bristles with weaponry `bundles or knives and forks and spoons' (182), developed into elaborate military imagery in the later description of the piled-up food (197). The `top of the closed square piano' (182) doubles as another sideboard, and there is a third, smaller one, the scene of Mr Browne's ministrations: `Mr Browne was grinning at him from the sideboard' (185).
In the dinner scene the word `table' is used to refer to the assembled guests; but this usage is shadowed by a more literal one, insinuating the presence of the coffin (like the distorted death's head in Holbein's The Ambassadors): Gabriel's love of life: `he liked nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table' (187) could thus subliminally express a longing for the tomb; in `the conversation with which the table covered Lily's removal of the plates' (199), `covered' and `removal' have funerary associations; `As the subject had grown lugubrious it was buried in a silence of the table' (202) - subliminally, the silence of the tomb. `A few gentlemen patted the table gently as a signal for silence' (202); `the table burst into applause and laughter' (205) - tinged with hollowness and anxiety like all laughter in this story.
A tableau, `The Misses Morkan, all three, looked down at the tablecloth' (202), suggests the iconography of the Three Fates, for instance the group on Rodin's `Gate of Hell' (Musée Rodin). The tablecloth here again recalls a gravecloth, or the cloth spun by the Fates or Wagner's three Norns. Association with Wagner is fitting, for the Morrigans stem from a period when there were links between the Rhine Celts and the Germans (Smith, 110). That the good ladies should fleetingly appear as threatening is a characteristic effect of `estrangement' which allows an archaic sense of the uncanny to surface amid the reassuring conventional surface of the party (see Spoo, 91). In Freudian terms this could be pursued as an indicator of castration-anxiety on Gabriel's part; indeed his manly identity is assailed by all the women in the story: Lily, Molly, Gretta, Mrs Malins (whose undermining of Freddy parallels Gabriel's mother's undermining of her sons), the insipid Miss Furlong and Miss Higgins, and now, subliminally, the three Misses Morkan. The sinister thematic is developed when Gabriel speaks of `this hospitable roof, this hospitable board. It is not the first time we have been the recipients - or perhaps, I had better say, the victims - of the hospitality of certain good ladies' (203).
When Gabriel calls them `the Three Graces of the Dublin musical world' (205) and compares himself to Paris, two further triads are introduced, for Paris judged not between the three Graces (or Charites, daughters of Zeus) but between the three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. We remember the earlier triad, Misses Furlong, Daly and Power (182), who `with one instinct' (183) silently disapproved of Browne and who were imperiously recruited by Aunt Kate (184). Another female triad is the one proposed for the Aran Islands excursion: Molly Ivors, Kathleen Kearney and Gretta Conroy (189) - all three deeply steeped in the Celtic world that Gabriel finds threatening; we know of Kathleen Kearney's Celtic credentials from `A Mother' (135-6). Lily's three potatoes (199) again associate a woman with the number three. Men, on the contrary, come in twos or fours: Gabriel and Michael, Browne and Freddy, the `two young men' to whom Browne turns (183), Mr Bergin and Mr Kerrigan (184), the four young men who go away quietly in couples (186), Mr Clancy and Mr Kilkelly (189). These numbers give the story a mythological patterning such as one finds in folk tales.
THE CHAMBER OF JUDGEMENT
The last enclosed place in the story is the hotel bedroom. It is mentioned early on: `you've seen about the room' (181). As Gabriel sets off toward the room sinister omens accumulate.
A first allusion to post-mortem judgement can be found in the following exchange, which also anticipates Gabriel's final compassion for Michael:
- The Lord have mercy on his soul, said Aunt Kate compassionately.
- Amen, said Gabriel. (209)
Then after the thirteen `Good-nights' (Kelleher, 428), the threatening morning landscape suggests that `day of wrath' proclaimed in the Requiem liturgy - Dies irae, dies illa/Solvet saeclum in favilla: `the sky seemed to be descending' (214), picked up at the close of the story, `the descent of their last end.' A house of judgment appears:`the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against the heavy sky' (214). Even the lamps `burning redly in the murky air' (214) and Gretta's remembered joke, `Is the fire hot, sir?' (215) add touches of a doomsday scenario, and also suggest the burning of Da Derga's hostel. Readers of A Portrait, Chapter Three, will know that Joyce cannot touch on such themes lightly. Gabriel's terror in the final scene is nothing less than apocalyptic.
At Winetavern Street, `once famous for its coffinmakers' (Kelleher, 429) they meet a cab. Cabs and carriages are a mobile enclosed space, constantly associated with death in the story. Earlier, Gabriel remembered last year's cab: `cab windows rattling all the way, and the east wind blowing in' (180). Mr Browne, however, relishes the thought of `a fast drive with a good spanking goer between the shafts' (208), a drive to the cemetery, we subliminally glean. He ushers his choice victims into the funereal cab: `Well, drive bang up against Trinity College gates, said Mr Browne, and then we'll tell you where to go. You understand now?' (210). What the reader may understand is that Mr Browne will direct them to posthumous abodes after a fatal crash against the Protestant gates. Now, the cab which Gretta and Gabriel mount again makes a `rattling noise' and is described as an `old rattling box' (a hearse with rattling bones). Compare Ulysses 6:332-3: 'Rattle his bones. Over the stones. Only a pauper. Nobody owns' (Joyce 1986:79). The weary horse recalls the routine-bound Johnny. Gabriel's rosy vision is undermined by the same irony as Julia's `bridal': `Gabriel was again in a cab with her, galloping to catch the boat, galloping to their honeymoon' (215).
As they cross O'Connell Bridge, Gabriel's flippant attitude to the statue of Daniel O'Connell echoes Don Giovanni's treatment of the Commendatore's statue in Mozart's opera, which brought about his doom:
he nodded familiarly to it and waved his hand.
- Good-night, Dan, he said gaily. (216)
His nod recalls the silent nods of the Commendatore's statue (Mozart 376, 378). The statue's words, `You shall finish laughing before dawn' (Di rider finirai pria dell'aurora) and `Bold scoffer, leave the dead in peace' (Ribaldo, audace, lascia a' morti la pace; Mozart, 369, 370) fit in well with the situation here. The allusion to the statue as a `white man' anticipates the ghostly presence of Furey in the last scene. Even the name of the statue, Daniel, is that of the biblical book in which the names of Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; 9:22) and Michael first occur. Gabriel has unwittingly insulted the dead already in his flippancy about Patrick Morkan (209; see Kelleher, 427). He has also slighted the people whom Daniel O'Connell championed - `your own people, and your own country' (190). We feel his hubris infringes a taboo and will bring nemesis.
The room is preceded by a stairs, which is given the same deathly aura as the stairs at Usher's Island by the dim lighting, the excruciating slowness of their progress up them, the weighted silence, the sounds that anticipate the softly falling snow at the end of the story, and the repetition of the word `stairs' itself: 'He lit a candle in the office and went before them to the stairs. They followed him in silence, their feet falling in soft thuds on the thickly carpeted stairs. She mounted the stairs behind the porter, her head bowed in the ascent... The porter halted on the stairs to settle his guttering candle. They halted too on the steps below him. In the silence Gabriel could hear the falling of the molten wax into the tray and the thumping of his own heart against his ribs' (216-7). Gabriel does not realize that he is entering a room where he will be forced to face himself, judged by his wife and her dead lover. He `shot the lock to' (217), ironically locking himself into the judgment chamber.
Like the Morkan abode, the hotel has dark stairs, gaslight, and coffin-shaped furniture: the porter `set his unstable candle down on a toilet table'; `Gabriel threw his overcoat and hat on a couch' (again one might think of the linen cloths and head-cloth of John 20:7); `he turned and leaned against a chest of drawers with his back to the light' (217). The bed is also a place of death: Gretta `ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face' (219); she `flung herself face downward on the bed, sobbing in the quilt' (223). Gabriel `stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife' (224).
As if by ghostly intervention, the electric light is not functioning. Gabriel refuses the candlelight, with a touch of hubristic blindness: `We don't want any light. We have light enough from the street' (217). The light from the street powerfully pervades the room. It is not modern electricity, but old-fashioned gaslight, representing the ghost of Furey who was `in the gasworks' (221): `A ghostly light from the street lamp lay in a long shaft from one window to the door' (217). The hotel is another version of Da Derga's hostel. Conaire infringed a taboo on staying in a house `in which light is manifest from without' (Kelleher, 422). The Irish for `taboo' is geis, and in its plural and genitive, geasa, one can hear the sound `gas.' `Under a taboo' is 'faoi geasa' (De Baldraithe, 736), exactly Gabriel's state under the gaslight.
Gabriel flinches from the judging light of Furey's ghost, turning his back to the light (217, 222), whereas Gretta is drawn to the light: she `walked along the shaft of light towards him' (217-18); `She went on to the window and stood there, looking out' (218); `She looked away from him along the light towards the window in silence' (221). At the end of this section Gabriel is able to walk to the window; the terror of Furey's presence has been exorcized and has given way to pity.
The most salient item of furniture is the mirror, a cheval-glass (219), recalling Gabriel's earlier impersonation of the horse Johnny (209). Gabriel's self-judgment proceeds from a glimpse in the mirror 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 eyeglasses' (219-20), to a keener vision of his own image as his wife speaks. After communing with Furey's ghost (looking `along the shaft of light to the window') she says: `He is dead... He died when he was only seventeen. Isn't it a terrible thing to die so young as that?' This is received by Gabriel as an `evocation of this figure from the dead,' `evocation' here having the strong sense of summoning up a spirit from the hosts of the dead. Judgment is effected by her comparison of him with Furey: 'she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his won clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead' (221).
If this first evocation humiliates him, the further revelation - `I think he died for me' - intensifies his unease into `a vague terror' in which he imagines Furey's ghost marshalling against him the forces of `its vague world' (221-2). Furey's presence as an `impalpable and vindictive being' (221) recalls the Furies of Greek tragedy. His name, Michael, is that of the angel of judgment: `At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people... And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt' (Daniel 12:1-2; see also Revelation 12:7-9).
The repetition of `vague' above is a characteristic of Gabriel's poetic style, which infiltrates the telling of the story at points where his feelings are involved. Repetitions pervade the entire scene, including those in Gretta's narration; her repetitions reveal that the incident has been mulled over in her mind again and again: 'I am thinking about that song' (219); `What about the song?'; `a person long ago who used to sing that song'; `who was the person long ago?'; `It was a person I used to know' (220). 'Such eyes as he had: big dark eyes! And such an expression in them - an expression!' (220); 'I can see his eyes as well as well' (223). 'I used to go out walking with him' (220); `We used to go out together, walking' (222). 'He died when he was only seventeen'; `what did he die of so young?'; `he died for me' (221). 'It was in the winter, she said, about the beginning of the winter when I was going to leave my grandmother's and come up here to the convent'; `when it came for the time for me to leave Galway and come up to the convent'; `the night before I left I was in my grandmother's house' (222). 'She paused for a moment' (twice, 222). 'And did you not tell him to go back?' (222); `I implored of him to go home'; `And did he go home?'; `he went home' (223). 'There was the poor fellow at the end of the garden' (222); `He was standing at the end of the wall where there was a tree' (223). 'His people in Oughterard' (222); `he died and was buried in Oughterard where his people came from' (223). The repeated `people' here echoes Gabriel's curt `Her people are' (189). The Archangel Michael is the heavenly defender of the Jewish people (Daniel 10:13, 21) and Michael Furey represents the Irish people, slighted by Gabriel. Michael sings of Aughrim, scene of a final Irish defeat in 1691 at the hands of King Billy, whose statue the horse imitated by Gabriel slavishly circled: `Gabriel paced in a circle round the hall in his goloshes amid the laughter of the others' (209).
This romantic situation summoned up by Gretta is an operatic one, threatened as all such situations are by sentimentality. Joyce guards it against this threat by encasing it in the motival webs he has so sedulously thickened, especially the operatic ones: the allusions to dead singers, early death (Georgina Burns), thwarted nuptials (Dinorah's, Elvira's in I Puritani), and frustrated love (Lucrezia Borgia's maternal love for Gennaro; Mignon's for the father-figure Wilhelm).
When Gretta has fallen asleep, Gabriel's thoughts wander back to the drawing-room of the party, now a chamber of death: `he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees' (224). This is a moment of final closure: Julia's death, anticipated throughout is here explicitly visualized. Gabriel settles into bed as if accepting death (`One by one they were all becoming shades') and thinks how Gretta had `locked in her heart' the image of Furey (224). But on these images of closure there supervenes a beckoning from `that other world': `A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window' (225), and the final paragraph launches a movement of expansion as dramatic and sublime as the oniric close of Shelley's Adonais (`I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar').
In the final paragraph the `remains of the day' (Freud's Tagesreste) are recycled in Gabriel's dreamy consciousness: `his journey westward' (cf. 189, 191, 203); `snow was general all over Ireland' (cf. 212); `their last end' (cf. 202). A broad snow-bound landscape opens out, attaining cosmic dimensions in the last sentence (`falling faintly through the universe'), but centered on one enclosed space: `the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried' with its `crooked crosses and headstones,' `the spears of the little gate,' and `the barren thorns' (225); this echoes previous images of weaponry and occurrences of the word `cross' and `across': `their turn to cross' (189); `whether she had had a good crossing' (190); `cross-directions' (210); `throwing her arms across the bedrail' (219); the movements of Gretta and Freddy `across the room' (192). Other crossings of different kinds include Lily's `bitter and sudden retort' (174); Gabriel's mother's `sullen opposition to his marriage' (187); Gabriel's `words' with Molly Ivors and with Gretta (191); Aunt Kate's quarrel with the Church (195); Molly's disappointing departure (196); the `transverse green sashes' on the bottles (197); `the noise of orders and counter-orders' (198); minor clashes between Freddy and Browne who calls him Teddy (194, 199), and between Browne and D'Arcy (200); the contretemps about the monks sleeping in their coffins (201-2); the `sad memories' that conflict with `our work among the living' (205); `the terracotta and salmonpink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white' (210-11); Mr D'Arcy's curt interruption of his song (212), and of course the final thwarting of Gabriel's desires.
The last paragraph is full of adverbs ending in -ly - sleepily, obliquely, softly (`falling softly'; `softly falling'), thickly, slowly, faintly (`falling faintly'; `faintly falling') and has seven occurrences of `falling.' This music has been anticipated by similar expressions since their arrival at the hotel: `falling in soft thuds'; `thickly carpeted' (216); `falling of the molten wax'; `slowly for he was surprised'; `She turned away from the mirror slowly' (217); `she had fallen to him so easily'; `he said softly'; `he said again, softly' (219); `also sadly' (221); `I never knew rightly' (222) - the `rightly' here is poignantly elegiac; `let it fall gently and walked quietly to the window' (223).
CLOSED MUSICAL FORMS
The ternary forms of the story are closed forms in that they end as they begin (inclusio): the repetition of `Lily, the caretaker's daughter' and the aunts on the banisters in the first section; the opening and closing sections of Mary Jane's Academy piece, marked by the departure and re-entry of the four young men; the two conversations with Molly Ivors in the Lancers scene, both ending with `West Briton' and sandwiching a passage of Gabriel's brooding (187-90); Mrs Malins's conversation with its repetitions of `beautiful' sandwiching Gabriel's conversation with Gretta (190-2). The regular descent of the cadences closing the sections creates a pervasive sense of enclosure.
I shall now list the last words of each section, italicizing references to ending and finality:
Section 1: 'that was what brought them every two minutes to the banister to ask Lily had Gabriel or Freddy come' (176, echoing the close of the story's first paragraph).
Section 2: 'Well, thank you, sir' (178).
Section 3: 'His whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure' (179).
Section 4: 'Thanks for your beautiful waltz, Miss Daly. It made lovely time' (182).
Section 5: 'Miss Furlong... asked Miss Daly what was the name of the pretty waltz she had played; and Mr Browne, seeing that he was ignored, turned promptly [sinister speed again!] to the two young men who were more appreciative' (183).
Section 6: 'repeating words of his last phrase as well as his fit of laughter would allow him' (186).
Section 7: 'the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped' (187). Four is the number of young men who bear a coffin; this is underlined by the reference to them going away `in couples' (186).
Section 8: 'West Briton!' (190).
Section 9: 'and the man in the hotel boiled it for their dinner' (192).
Section 10: 'What did he care that his aunts were only two ignorant old women?' (193).
Section 11: 'finish the discussion afterwards' (195).
Section 12: 'He stared blankly down the staircase' (196).
Section 13: 'Kindly forget my existence, ladies and gentlemen, for a few minutes' (199).
Section 14: 'A beautiful pure sweet mellow English tenor, said Aunt Kate with enthusiasm' (201).
Section 15: '- The coffin, said Mary Jane, is to remind them of their last end.
As the subject had grown lugubrious it was buried in a silence of the table during which Mrs Malins could be heard saying to her neighbour in an indistinct undertone:
- They are very good men, the monks, very pious men' (202).
Section 16: a gleaming cap of snow that flashed westward over the white field of Fifteen Acres' (203).
Section 17: Freddy Malins acting as officer with his fork on high' (207).
Section 18: 'the cab rattled off along the quay amid a chorus of laughter and adieus' (210).
Section 19: 'the singing stopped and the piano was closed abruptly' (212).
Section 20: 'Good-night. Good-night' (214).
Section 21: 'The same to you, said Gabriel cordially' (216).
Section 22: 'Gabriel shot the lock to' (217).
Section 23: 'let it fall gently and walked quietly to the window' (223).
Section 24: 'like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead' (225).
The tally of the sections comes out at twenty-four, the number of hours in a day (and the number of books into which editors divided the Homeric epics). The twenty four stations of the story would emblematize the stages of human life from conception (Lily in the first section is associated with the Annunciation) to grave (Michael Furey's in the last section). Such numerology would be farfetched if we were not dealing with the future author of Ulysses (eighteen chapters corresponding to eighteen hours) and Finnegans Wake (the chapters of part III cover the four watches of the night).
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From: English Literature and Language 34 (1997); see also "The Musical Structure of 'The Dead'".