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WithinJames Joyce’s 1914 Dubliners lies the famous story “The Dead”.Although this story was written a century ago, the literarytechniques used to convey the main theme has made the story relevantto date. In 1987, John Huston was compelled to adapt the story into afilm that he named “The Dead”. Analysts have argued that thereare numerous cinematic techniques that Huston uses that makes thefilm extremely attractive and eye catching. Although the storydelivers the message through the eyes and the voice of an author,Huston managed to put together exceptional characters, who deliveredthe message and the theme of the adapted film through their ownwords, actions and expressions. In order to deliver the message ofthe story and the film, James Joyce and John Huston used literary andcinematic techniques. The use of these techniques was extremelysuccessful in both pieces of art. As this essay seeks to discuss,some of the techniques used in both pieces of work compare, whileothers contrast. However, it is clear that the methods used wereuseful in ensuring that the audience get a deeper meaning of both thestory and the adapted film.
Thefirst and most useful literary technique that James Joyce uses in thestory is the use of first language1.The narration of the story by the use of a third person adds meaningand reality in the story. In instances where first language techniqueis used, it adds immense weight to the meaning of the story. This iswitnessed in the various conversations between Mary Jane, Aunt Kateand Mr. D`Arcy1.The use of first language in the conversations has also been viewedby analysts as adding essence to the characters, as well as makingthe party lively and realistic. The author has also chosen to usemasterful language in the story.
Thisis evident when Gabriel is contemplating the comparison of his wifewith a piece of painting. The words used were “Gabriel stock-stillfor a moment in astonishment and then followed her`, "the graceand the mystery", "the symbol of something”.
Joyceadopts a spontaneous tone and flow of the story, which creates aperfect image of the scene and the world. The use of Gabriel’svoice is essential in conveying the theme of the story. Gabriel putsthe story into focus through the use of his knowledge. The authoruses Gabriel’s knowledge to create an unfolding of events in thestory2.The story also applies the use of symbolism and illusion. Theconflicts and the lack of self-belief that Gabriel is involved in arerepresented through the various scenes in the story. For instance,immediately after arriving for the party, Gabriel seeks audience withLily, who snobs him after asking her about her love life. Gabrieloffers her a coin in gesture that was aimed at justifying hisactions. It is clear that from this instance, Gabriel’s use ofmoney was meant to make him feel better2.The use of snow in the story is also symbolic. It is evident by theend of the story that Gabriel believes that there does not exist sucha great gap between the dead and the living. The snow is used as aunifying factor between the dead and the living. In other words, asGabriel describes towards the end of the story, the ice covers thedead in their graveyards as it covers the coats of the living2.
Gabrielis constantly in conflict with himself and the people around him,whether living or dead. The use of conflict as literary technique inthe story is vital in enhancing the flow of the story. It isimperative to note that Gabriel is the main character in the storyand that every aspect of the story seems to revolve around him. Hisconflict with the female gender, his lack of patriotism andinteractions have been used as the basis for creating the plot of thestory.
Itis not evidently clear from the start that Gabriel is in conflictwith women or even himself. It is also not known whether he ispatriotic or not. However, through the use of the technique ofconflict, the author has managed to bring out these conflicts. Theconflict with Lily and Miss Ivors, as well as with his wife Grettabrings out his interaction problems with women3.
Joycehas also used characterisation in the entire story to bring outvarious points. To start with, Joyce uses the characters of Gabrieland Gretta to represent the world and Ireland respectively. Thegaloshes, which are worn by Gabriel, are a representation of theworld. It is clear from the story that Gretta is against the worldculture and sticks with the traditions of Ireland. Although Gabrielwanted her to be in galoshes, she refused. This is the use of twodifferent characters, which are used to represent two differentviewpoints. It is also evident that Miss Ivors represents Irelandpatriots and lures Gabriel to be a patriot and drop the westernculture that had become fond of him3.
Thechoice of the title “The Dead” has also been viewed as anexcellent literary technique to deliver the message and also toenhance the theme. The central themes in the story include one of thedeath and others such as conflict, family and patriotism. Althoughthere are no people who represent the dead except the former Gretta’slover Michael Furey, it is clear that the dead has been usedmetaphorically. The Ireland culture has been portrayed as dead in thestory3.The people from Ireland in the party have also been portrayed asdead. In other words, they are not open to the western culture. Thechoice of the words by the author were critical in catching theattention of the reader, as well as in delivering the message of thestory.
Thelast literary technique that is evidently present in the story is theuse of flashback. Events which happened long in the past arerevisited and remembered in the story by different characters. Thefeaturing in the story of Furey, Gretta’s former love is broughtforth through a flashback. This is when she listens to Mr. BartellD’Arcy’s song in the party that Furey sung to her before hisdeath. Consequently, Gabriel also remembered the horse that wouldcircle around one place despite being released from the mill. Thiswas both a flashback and a representation of the people in the partywho would repeat the party every year4.
Justas the story made use of various literary techniques, the film isalso full of cinematic techniques, which are critical in enhancingmessage delivery and creating reality in the film. Huston’sdramatization of Joyce’s story the dead has been regarded astouching. It is paramount to note that this was his last film, whichhe did before his death. The film has been viewed as an exactadaptation of the story. This ranges from the characters in the filmto the choice of words used in the film. While watching the film, itis as if one is reading the story. The flow of events and thecharacters that were never seen in the story come to the limelight.
Asthe film starts, one can see the snow on the streets falling on thehorse-drawn cabs. The snow is a symbolic aspect that was also used inthe story by Joyce to represent the numbness and coldness ofIreland4.The snow is seen as a universal aspect that covers everything on theground. Additionally, the presence of music playing in a piano andthe dancing couples is a clear indication that there is a party thatis going on.
Thecamera focuses on the house where the party is, as well as the soundof the piano.
Asthe story narrated portrayed, the two sisters hosting the party areseen being nervous at the arrival of the drunkard Freddy who is hardto control. The late arrival of Gabriel and his wife Gretta createdsome sense of tension in the film.
Thecharacterization used in the film is also comparable to the story.Gretta is depicted as tall, arrogant and commanding. She is beatingevery other character in the shot. This can be attributed to herstrong stand against westernization in the story5.She disagrees with her husband in the story to wear the galoshes. Asthe camera continues to focus on her in the film, it is clearlyevident that she is sad and she holding back a secret. This is thesame attitude she is described as having in the story. The sadnesswas a symbol of her secret of the loss of her former lover.
Thescene in the film where Gabriel gives Lily a coin as a Christmas giftis used to show the conflict that he had with women. However, it isvital to note that this was not clearly adapted as the storydescribed. According to the film, the main focus was on the gift ofmoney rather than on the conflict between the Gabriel and Lily5.The story used this incident to bring out the conflict and lack ofproper relationships and interaction that Gabriel had with women.
Theuse of dialogue in the film can also be compared with theconversations that were prevalent in the story. For instance, theconversation between Miss Ivor and Gabriel is the basis of anargument on his patriotism5.The use of dialogue in the film is critical in creating the flow ofthe film and the narrative. This is a cinematic technique that hasbeen widely used to create realism and capture the attention of theaudience in many films.
Additionally,the use of monologue by Gabriel after Gretta opened up to him can becompared in both the film and the story. It is the monologue that ledto the epiphany.
Althoughthe film was a perfection adaptation of the story “The Dead”,there are various cinematic techniques that are contrary to theliterary techniques used in the story7.Focalization was a major technique that Joyce used in the story. Theuse of Gabriel to present the fictional world worked excellently6.However film fails to use focalization to and instead focuses onother characters rather than Gabriel. It has created a split betweenthe description in the story and the narrative.
Althoughthere are flashbacks in the film, they are not as descriptive as inthe short story. They are interludes, which are conveyed by variouscharacters. It is also evident from the film that there are twoscenes the first one, which comprises of the events at the party,and the second scene, which covers Gabriel and Gretta in their hotelroom6.This has made the film to be longer than the story. This is due tothe various fragmented episodes in the film as well as the lack offocalization.
Theuse of the literary and the cinematic techniques has been extremelyuseful in the aesthetic success of both the story and the film.
Theuse of symbolism in the story was extremely useful in informing thereader of the deep meaning of the story. Characterization in thestory was also extremely useful and added aesthetic value to thestory. The use of first language, dialogue and monologue were alsoessential in the delivery of the story’s message and enhancing thetheme. The same case applies to the film. The use of cinematictechniques has ensured that the piece of art gains valueaesthetically. The division of the film into two scenes, the use ofmusic, dialogue, lighting and the camera rolls have enhanced theartistic value of the film. The cinematic techniques have added lifeand realism to the film9.
Itis clear that the two pieces of art have used literary and cinematictechniques immensely in a bid to deliver the message and enhance theaesthetic value of the work. It is believed by a majority of readersand audiences that a piece of art as viewed as aesthetic due to theuse of various techniques of delivering the message. Ranging fromsymbolism, conflict, dialogue, monologue and others, the story andthe adopted film have successfully used these techniques8.Although there are various literary and cinematic techniques that arecomparable, it has been seen that there are various techniques thatare different. Majority of works of art have deeper meanings, whichare hidden in the literary and cinematic techniques.
Bachmann,Gideon. 1982. How I Make Films: An Interview with John Huston. Film Quarterly, 19:1.
Bloom,Harold. 2009. JamesJoyce.New York, NY: Bloom`s Literary Criticism.
Bowen,Zack Rhollie. 1974. Musicalallusions in the works of James Joyce.
Fargnoli,A. Nicholas, Michael Patrick Gillespie, and A. Nicholas Fargnoli.2006. Critical companionto James Joyce a literary reference to his life and work.New York, NY: FactsonFile.
GeoffreyWagner. 2005. TheNovel and the Cinema.Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Klein,Thorsten. 2007. Ananalysis of the short story `The Dead` by James Joyce.München:GRIN Verlag GmbH.
Laird,Nick. 2006. I think he died for me. TheGuardian.Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/dec/02/stage
Spiekermann,Lena. 2013. Womenin James Joyce`s the dead and in john Huston’s filmic adaption:Grin Verlag.
Tindall,William York. 2008. Areader`s guide to James Joyce.Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press.
1 Bloom, Harold. 2009. James Joyce. New York, NY: Bloom`s Literary Criticism.
2 Fargnoli, A. Nicholas, Michael Patrick Gillespie, and A. Nicholas Fargnoli. 2006. Critical companion to James Joyce a literary reference to his life and work. New York, NY: Facts on File
3 Klein, Thorsten. 2007. An analysis of the short story `The Dead` by James Joyce. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
4 Spiekermann, Lena. 2013. Women in James Joyce`s the dead and in john Huston’s filmic adaption: Grin Verlag.
5 Geoffrey Wagner. 2005. The Novel and the Cinema. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
6 Bowen, Zack Rhollie. 1974. Musical allusions in the works of James Joyce.
7 Bachmann, Gideon. 1982. How I Make Films: An Interview with John Huston. Film Quarterly, 19:1.
78 Laird, Nick. 2006. I think he died for me. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/dec/02/stage
9 Tindall, William York. 2008. A reader`s guide to James Joyce. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press.