Symbolism in "The Dead" by James Joyce

download print

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1196 |

Pages: 3|

6 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Words: 1196|Pages: 3|6 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Symbolism Essay Outline
  2. Introduction
    Snow as a Symbol of Human Nature
    Snow as a Unifying Element
    Gabriel's Initial Reaction to Snow
    Gabriel's Transformation
    Gabriel's Epiphany
  3. Symbolism Essay Example
  4. Introduction
    Snow as a Symbol of Human Nature
    Snow as a Unifying Element
    Gabriel's Initial Reaction to Snow

Symbolism Essay Outline


  • Introduction to James Joyce's distinct style in free direct discourse
  • Mention of the symbol of snow in "The Dead" from "Dubliners"

Snow as a Symbol of Human Nature

  • Snow as a symbol of human nature, with its randomness, uniqueness, and fragility
  • Comparison of melting snow to human weaknesses and frozen snow to human strength
  • The versatility and volatility of snow reflecting the human disposition

Snow as a Unifying Element

  • Snow's role in unifying humanity through its imperfections and flaws
  • Impact of snow on the characters at Julia and Kate's party
  • How snow affects the guests and connects them through human nature

Gabriel's Initial Reaction to Snow

  • Gabriel's initial arrogance and detachment from the snow
  • His reaction to the snow upon his arrival at the party
  • Gabriel's disdain for the flaws of human nature represented by the snow

Gabriel's Transformation

  • Gabriel's gradual transformation as he reflects on life and the snow
  • His newfound vulnerability and willingness to drop his haughty facade
  • The impact of his walk in the snow with his wife on his emotions

Gabriel's Epiphany

  • Gabriel's epiphany as he falls asleep, feeling at peace with the snow
  • His realization that human imperfections are unavoidable and make him feel alive
  • The snow symbolizing unity with humanity and the acceptance of human nature


  • Recap of how Joyce uses snow as a symbol and unifying element
  • Summary of Gabriel's transformation and realization through the snow

Symbolism Essay Example


James Joyce, known for his innovative narrative techniques, utilizes free direct discourse to offer readers direct access to the inner thoughts and emotions of his characters. "The Dead," the concluding story in his collection "Dubliners," is a poignant example of his mastery of this narrative style. Within the story, snow emerges as a multifaceted symbol that enriches the narrative with its profound representation of human nature. This essay delves into the symbolic significance of snow in "The Dead," exploring its portrayal of human nature, its role as a unifying element, and its transformative effect on the protagonist, Gabriel Conroy.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Snow as a Symbol of Human Nature

In "The Dead," snow serves as a rich and multifaceted symbol, inviting readers to delve into the complexities of human nature. Snowflakes, with their random and intricate crystalline structures, are unique and unpredictable, much like the experiences and emotions that shape each individual. Joyce deftly utilizes this symbol to emphasize the uniqueness of each person's inner world. The symbolism of snow extends to its fragility, as the warmth of human connection can cause it to melt away, echoing the vulnerability inherent in the human condition.

Moreover, Joyce draws a parallel between the transformation of snow from a solid to a liquid state and the mutable nature of human beings. Just as snow melts under certain conditions, human weaknesses and vulnerabilities become apparent in the face of life's challenges. This symbolism is particularly evident in the characters of "The Dead," who experience a thawing of their emotional barriers as the story unfolds. Joyce's use of snow underscores the dynamic and ever-changing nature of human beings, who can transition from a state of emotional frostiness to one of warmth and vulnerability.

Additionally, the symbol of frozen snow highlights the strength and resilience within human nature. Just as snow can endure harsh conditions, human beings can exhibit remarkable fortitude in the face of adversity. This duality of snow, as both fragile and resilient, mirrors the multifaceted nature of human beings and their capacity to adapt and persevere.

Snow as a Unifying Element

Snow plays a pivotal role in "The Dead" as a unifying element, forging connections among the characters by highlighting shared imperfections and vulnerabilities. As the snow descends upon the night of Julia and Kate's party, it disrupts the plans and expectations of the guests. This disruption serves as a powerful reminder of the unpredictability of life and the inevitable intrusion of the external world into our carefully constructed social gatherings.

The impact of the snow on the characters runs deep, creating a shared experience that connects them through their mutual vulnerability to the elements. Joyce uses the snowfall as a narrative device to break down the barriers of social class and status within the story. The snow's relentless descent humbles both the hosts and the guests, emphasizing the common humanity shared by all, regardless of their backgrounds or positions in society.

Furthermore, as the snow accumulates outside, it serves as a stark contrast to the warmth within the gathering. The imperfections of human nature become more apparent as the night progresses, and the characters reveal their flaws, desires, and insecurities. In this way, snow functions as a catalyst for the characters to confront their own humanity and to connect with one another on a deeper level.

Gabriel's Initial Reaction to Snow

Gabriel Conroy, the story's central character, initially responds to the snow with an air of arrogance and detachment. He perceives himself as superior to the snow, much as he views himself as above the Irish culture and customs of his peers. Gabriel's disdain for the snow reflects his initial attitude towards what he considers the flaws of human nature. This attitude is exemplified in his critical stance towards the Irish speech and traditions he encounters at the party.

Gabriel's initial reaction to the snow highlights his emotional detachment and his sense of superiority. He views himself as an outsider, both in relation to the snow and the culture of his fellow partygoers. This detachment serves as a barrier between him and the world around him, preventing him from truly engaging with the people and experiences of the evening.

However, as the story unfolds, Gabriel's relationship with the snow undergoes a significant transformation, mirroring his evolving emotional journey and his growing capacity for empathy and self-awareness. Gabriel's initial disdain for the snow is a reflection of his own emotional frostiness, but this frost begins to thaw as he confronts the imperfections and vulnerabilities within himself and those around him.

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.


In "The Dead," James Joyce harnesses the symbol of snow to infuse the narrative with depth and complexity. Snow is portrayed as a representation of human nature, characterized by its randomness, uniqueness, and fragility. It serves as a unifying element, bridging social divides and emphasizing the common humanity shared by all. Gabriel Conroy's initial detachment from the snow mirrors his initial emotional detachment, but as the story unfolds, he undergoes a profound transformation, ultimately embracing the imperfections of human nature. Joyce's use of snow as a symbol underscores the story's overarching theme of self-discovery and the profound interconnectedness of humanity. It invites readers to contemplate the beauty and complexity of the human experience, echoing the power of literature to reveal the depths of our shared humanity.


  1. Joyce, J. (1914). The Dead. Dubliners. Grant Richards.
  2. Smith, R. (1992). Snow in Literature. Indiana University Press.
  3. Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. Penguin Books.
  4. Bowers, J. M. (1997). The Geography of James Joyce's "Dubliners": Perversion, Aesthetics, and Identity. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Phillips, L. (2008). James Joyce: A Critical Guide. Edinburgh University Press.
  6. Gentry, M. L. (2002). Joyce's Environmental Vision. University Press of Florida.
  7. Jung, C. G. (1968). Man and His Symbols. Doubleday.
Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Symbolism in “The Dead” by James Joyce. (2018, April 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
“Symbolism in “The Dead” by James Joyce.” GradesFixer, 15 Apr. 2018,
Symbolism in “The Dead” by James Joyce. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2024].
Symbolism in “The Dead” by James Joyce [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Apr 15 [cited 2024 Apr 14]. Available from:
Keep in mind: This sample was shared by another student.
  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Write my essay

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled


Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Get Your
    Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!
    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now