James Joyce's writings centre on the city of Dublin, where he was born into a middle-class family in 1882. Despite this preoccupation, he left Dublin for the continent in 1904 and spent most of his life abroad. Joyce first caught the attention of critics with 'Dubliners', a brilliant collection of short stories, and rapidly grew in fame and status with his ground-breaking stream-of-consciousness style and the explicit content of his prose in such works as 'Ulysses' and 'Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man'.
'The Dead' is universally acknowledged as one of his best works, both in its style and emotional intensity. It tells the tale of one evening in the life of Gabriel Conroy at a dinner party, and an ensuing conversation with his wife Gretta that sparks feelings of the utter solitude and, paradoxically, of the interconnectedness of humanity. In typical Joycian style ("In the particular is contained the universal"), the prose is also peppered with motifs and vignettes that make Gabriel's life an icon of Ireland's National Consciousness. 'The Dead' is both a meditation on the joys, woes and betrayals of life, and at the same time a barely-disguised call to Irish Nationalism.