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Gaslight, Ghostlight, Golliwog, Gaslight

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 1, Fall 2008
pp. 19-37 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0127

Abstract

Abstract:

The gaslight that illuminates the settings of "The Dead" is an antiquated technology on the verge of being replaced by electricity. For that reason, among others, it brings with it associations of nostalgia, foregone romance, and ghosts—in other words, the emotional landscape of "The Dead." These associations converge on the figure of Michael Furey, the "boy in the gasworks," who, in "The Dead," is re-presented by the gas that highlights and burnishes Gretta's hair, that, through its buried pipes, tracks her and Gabriel to the Gresham Hotel, and that literally rises from underground to throw a "shaft" between them, thus extinguishing the feelings of renewed passion that it had helped kindle. Coming from underground to confront a self-conscious member of the "Ascendancy," the gas also reinforces the political theme, running throughout the story, of disenfranchisement—of the Irish by the English, of women by men, of blacks by whites.



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