“The Dead”, by James Joyce, comments on the necessity of passion in one’s life. Throughout the entire story, the reader experiences the mundane routine of life. The individuals in this story go to the same dance, expecting the same thing year in and year out. Gabriel always gives his speech and carves the turkey, everyone takes part in the waltz, and Mr. Browne arrives drunk just as in every year before. I believe that the characters are completely unaware of the monotony that plagues their lives.
Gabriel, the protagonist of the story, soon is forced to think about the lack of passion in his life. This occurs after his wife, Gretta, breaks down and tells him about a man she loved who died when he was only seventeen. Gabriel is initially infuriated and annoyed as he had far different expectations for the night. After his wife falls asleep, he lays on the bed, peering out the window, thinking about what Gretta has just told him. He thinks about the passion in Gretta’s eyes when she spoke of her lost love, and regrets the lack of passion in his own life. “He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love” (116). He realizes that, though he has been married to Gretta for some time, he has never felt true love. Would it have been better to live a life of seventeen years infused with passion, or to live a long life full of routine with no meaning? I believe that this is the question Gabriel is asking himself as the story draws to a close. I view Gabriel’s contemplation as a turning point in his life. Perhaps he will act on his realization and live a different life; a life full of passion and meaning.