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Monday, March 15, 2010

Vincent J. Cheng: "Empire and Patriarchy in 'The Dead'"

Initially, I was quite confused with Cheng’s article. I found the first half to be foggy, as I was unsure as to the direction in which Cheng was headed. However, as I concluded my reading, I grew found of Cheng’s appreciation and commitment throughout his research. For this, I will discuss the latter half of Cheng’s article, as it deals with the humbling revelation of Gabriel and his own ‘self-awareness’. When referring to the situation in the Conroy’s hotel room, Cheng states that this is a normal experience for couples, as “one partner is sexually frustrated to discover that the other is not ‘in the mood’”. Aware of his wife’s sexual passiveness, Gabriel, being the powerful and dominant male that he is, begins to grow tiresome of his ‘inaction’. It is here that Cheng’s reading of Gabriel comes full circle. At face value, Gabriel is a sympathetic and kind individual. Yet for Cheng, Gabriel is merely an oppressive tyrant who finds pleasure in his superiority over others. We see this through Gabriel’s constant interactions with not only Gretta, but also, his children and even Lily. Still, as Gabriel hears the news that has been hindering his intercourse, he is “shy of intruding on her grief, let it [hand] fall gently and walked quietly to the window”. Growing faint and confused, Gabriel in a sense is brought back down to earth. Humbled by the thought of his wife loving another man, Gabriel’s manhood and lifelong virtues have been thrown into question. He is unable to control the emotional distress of his wife, which is something that seems to trouble him physically. Gabriel is unaffected by the emotional turmoil of his wife, but rather, his own expansion of self-awareness that comes as a result. Ultimately for Cheng, Gabriel is a figure that represents the British Empire and their rule over far-flung countries. Just as European forces repressed the cultures and traditions of Irish society, so to does Gabriel through his ego and hyper-masculine qualities. Yet the realization that comes from the hand of his wife, allows for Gabriel’s acceptance of “emotional expansiveness, self-understanding, and generosity”, such characteristics that often lack in oppressive individuals.

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