Aestheticism in James Joyce`s “The Dead”

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Aestheticismin James Joyce`s &quotThe Dead”

JamesJoyce`s &quotThe Dead,&quot highlights the importance of taste, thepursuit of beauty, and the individual self in perception as the mainprinciples in art and life. Through the character of the protagonistand the unfolding events, the story shows that life is subjective andshould not be dictated upon by some set standards.

ThroughGabriel Conroy, who is a professor and part-time book reviewer, thestory emphasizes personal perfection. It is not about what peoplethink about him or what he does, but how well he does it. Forinstance, in Conroy`s interaction with Molly at Morkan`s party, theman does not worry himself about other people`s feelings aboutnationalism. As an informed person, Conroy does not feel the pressureto live by social norms but rather his professionalism that requireshim to have a strong opinion and even be direct and rational. Forexample, he tells Molly that &quotI`m sick of my own country, sickof it!&quot (Joyce 31). He adds that he does not fancy visiting AranIslands, which hold a lot of significance to Irish nationalists.Although these words anger Molly, Conroy is only selfishly concernedabout looking at the issue of Irish nationalism from a factualstandpoint. Also, the story does not suggest what is morallyacceptable in relating with others.

Therefore,through Gabriel`s character and the unfolding events, the storyoffers no moral lessons to the audience. Instead, it offers pureentertainment without advocating for any social or moral stand. Thus,the story works for entertainment purposes only with the protagonistliving a life free from moral and social obligations.


Joyce,James. “The Dead,” Dubliners.Penguin Books, 1914, pp. 19-35.