How Much Is That Paralysis in the Window?

Gregory Raiewski
English 45C
Prof. Blanton / Coldren
2 April 2010
How Much is that Paralysis in The Window?
As Gabriel is introduced into the annual dinner party in “The Dead,” so is paralysis, in a rather subtle but nonetheless effective manner in which to associate paralysis directly with Gabriel. The narrator points out that “[o]n his hairless face there scintillated restlessly the polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the glasses which screen his delicate and restless eyes” (178). Next, Gabriel’s eyes are described as “admiring and happy eyes [that] had been wandering from [Gretta’s] dress to her face and hair” (180). While eye movement in a normal, healthy adult may seem insignificant, a paralyzed individual’s movement may be restricted literally to his or her eyes alone; Gabriel’s eyes being “restless” is an early hint to his paralysis, introduced even before his struggle with wanting to leave Dublin, as he does not act but simply observes only by the use of his eyes.
Within this party are the instrumental figures that Joyce uses to convey the grasp paralysis has on Gabriel. When Gabriel is debating with Miss Ivors, she is attempting to persuade his traveling to be within Ireland, or in other words, remaining an insider. Feeling defensive yet desirous to remain civil, Gabriel is left in a paralytic state, as in his response to Miss Ivors’ harangues, he “continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile” (188). Through this uncomfortable situation, both with the tone of the conversation as well as the topic of traveling inside or outside of Ireland, he is left not actually smiling, but trying to smile; reappearing also is the movement of Gabriel’s eyes, rather than a more noticeable physical movement or utterance of speech. This conversation, however, finally brings out Gabriel’s desire to leave, as he expresses to Miss Ivors, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it! (190). As Gabriel’s partial paralysis is actualized in this point of the...