We can chart a life on the epiphanies we have, when the beyond peeks into our consciousness. In “The Dead,” Joyce exhibits his mastery in depicting the mind at work, to reveal a devastating epiphany. At the end of the story, we ask, “What now?”
“The Dead” by James Joyce
by Brian Chappell
I am not old enough in years to be wise. I am not young enough at heart to be wise. I must grow involuntarily in one direction and strive voluntarily in the other. Along the way, we are struck by unbidden moments that accelerate our journey, moments that precipitate dramatic internal change. Joyce knew this well. Many of the stories in Dubliners contain what scholars and teachers of Joyce call “epiphanies” - moments of insight, revelations. More than anagnorisis, where a character learns of his change of fortune (usually sometime after the audience learns of it), the epiphany goes deeper than the events and circumstances of the stories, allowing the present moment to enlighten the character to some truth about himself, the self, the world, or God. It is a turn inward, a turn that Joyce would embrace in groundbreaking fashion in Ulysses.