Selected Shorts: James Joyce's "The Dead," Part 2

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James Joyce’s classic story “The Dead” takes place at a New Year’s dinner-dance in Dublin in 1904. It is filled with colorful personalities, and is a glimpse of a bygone era.

The hostesses of the annual dinner are the Misses Kate and Julia Morkan, frail elderly aunts of the story’s central characters, Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta, the crisis in whose marriage provides the dramatic through-line of this deeply emotional story.

“The Dead,” is the final work in Joyce’s famous collection of short stories, "Dubliners," depicting the lives of different people living in and around Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. In it, Joyce conveys a broad societal image of a generation and its values and traditions and holiday rites, and, at the same time, he centers it all on an intense and intimate portrait of one couple, the Conroys.

SHORTS literary commentator Hannah Tinti notes that “Joyce is known as a master of the 'epiphany' — a culmination of plot twists that lead to a single moment of revelation. Nearly every story in 'Dubliners' has one of these moments of understanding, and the epiphany at the end of 'The Dead' is one of the most famous in all of literature.”

This program features Part 2 of “The Dead,” and we rejoin the story just as the sumptuous festive meal is underway and Gabriel Conroy is preparing to make his traditional after-dinner speech in praise of his hostesses and their vanishing generation. The show includes period music by one of Joyce’s favorite singers, the Irish tenor John McCormack, and a performance of another song with narrative significance in the story, “The Lass of Aughrim.”

The readers are Rene Auberjonois, Fionnula Flanagan and Isaiah Sheffer. For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please click here.

We’re interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site or visit the Selected Shorts Web site.

And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site here.

Announcing the 2012 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize. This year's theme is “objects of desire.”  The judge is the author Maile Meloy and the deadline is March 2, 2012.