Gabriel’s warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper table!
James Joyce. The Dead, Dubliners (Page 166, 167)
I ran down to see what can be seen as you look to the west from the house on Usher’s Island, the setting of The Dead. The Wellington Monument appears as the main feature on the skyline and the setting seems largely as it would have been seen at the time the story is set. As you move westwards along Victoria Quay alongside Guinness the vista widens and the monument appears smaller on the skyline.
The physical movement of the story moves eastwards towards the Gresham Hotel where the story concludes, but the background to the story and the thrust is all westwards and into Gretta Conroy’s past.
—There were no words, said Gabriel moodily, only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of Ireland and I said I wouldn’t.
His wife clasped her hands excitedly and gave a little jump.
—O, do go, Gabriel, she cried. I’d love to see Galway again.
—You can go if you like, said Gabriel coldly.
James Joyce. The Dead, Dubliners (Page 166)
As the story ends Gabriel realises he has to go west and confront the past
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.
James Joyce. The Dead, Dubliners (Page 194)
In Gordon Bowkers James Joyce, A Biography (p.136) he notes that Joyce went through a sham marriage To Nora Barnacle in order to get a job at the Berlitz School in Trieste. Nora used the name “Gretta Greene”. This is obvious word play on the town of Gretna Green in Scotland, famous for elopement and weddings. It seems likely this is the source of the first name for Gretta Conroy, who is clearly modelled on Nora Barnacle.
Bowker, G. (2012) James Joyce: A Biography. London, United Kingdom: Phoenix.
Joyce, J. (2006) Dubliners, Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Edited by Margot Norris, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.