Dublin Usher’s Island – No. 15

And we are back to Dublin! For this week’s virtual travels I decided to check out some of the places and roads mentioned in “The Dead”. After many hours of virtual navigation, I ended my travels at the Misses Morkan’s house. As mentioned in the picture above, the Morkan house is where the party takes place and it is one of the two settings mentioned in the play. Below is an inside and outside look at the real-life setting of “The Dead”.

Credit: “James Joyce: Exhuming bones and resurrecting house of The Dead” BBC News

This Georgian townhouse was identified as the real-life setting of “The Dead” in the 1960s (“James Joyce: Exhuming bones and resurrecting house of The Dead”). This townhouse is located on Usher’s Island, an area that is part of the Dublin quays. The Dublin quays are a set of two roadways that run along the north and south banks of River Liffey. If you we were to turn around, you would see the magnificent river and the bridge that connects the two roadways. The two roadways are filled with Georgian townhouses like this one and each is identified by a number. “The Dead” takes place in townhouse number 15, specifically in the top floors of the house. It is argued that Joyce’s inspiration for “The Dead” arose from the multiple dinner parties he attended throughout his life (“James Joyce: Exhuming bones and resurrecting house of The Dead”). The picture below gives us a sneak peak at what townhouse number 15 looks like on the inside. The grand staircase reminds me of how Lily was running up and down the stairs to greet the arriving guests and how Gabriel was admiring his wife from the bottom of the steps.

Credit: “James Joyce: Exhuming bones and resurrecting house of The Dead” BBC News

I couldn’t help but notice how in “The Dead” Joyce uses the sharing and consumption of food to remind us about the joys and difficulties of being together. We observe how the Morkan’s hospitality and good food brings the characters together; Gabriel and the guests celebrate and praise Aunt Kate and Julia’s remarkable hospitality, arguing that as long as these good ladies live, the tradition of genuine and courteous Irish hospitality will continue to live among them. By holding these annual party dinners, these women are keeping Irish hospitality alive and well. But the difficulties of being together is also present throughout the night as we notice the multiple conversations that go wrong when one character says something that others do not agree with. This is evident mostly with Gabriel who is constantly missing the mark in his conversations; Gabriel starts to bicker with Miss Ivors after she calls him a West Briton and they end the night on sour terms. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that any and all conversations involving politics, nationality, or religion prove to be a source of conflict for these guests because they have differing views. As we move into the dining scene, we notice very little change in the dynamic of conversation. Although the party is meant to foster a welcoming atmosphere, the rigid order of the table suggests military battle as the guests try to outperform each other on their cultural knowledge about the opera and tenor singers. To avoid any confrontations, the guests turn to food to remind themselves that they are here to enjoy good food and each other’s company. “The Dead” illustrates how feasting and hospitality are an important part of urban, middle-class Irish society; but these feasts aren’t without conflict.

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