James Joyce's connections with Galway/Oughterard
Review of Hubert Mc Dermott's lecture "The Dead".
By Mary Kyne
Lecture: James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ – Galway/ Oughterard connections by Professor Hubert Mc Dermott N.U.I.G Galway
Many avid readers find it difficult to read James Joyce’s writings – Ulysses and his short stories but all has changed, “changed utterly” for the people of Oughterard who attended an inspiring lecture on James Joyce’s short story, one of the greatest short stories ever written “The Dead” given by Professor Hubert Mc Dermott at the Oughterard Tourist Office in May 2011. John Hueston in his film “The Dead” has captured what James Joyce intended in this story when he transformed a personal experience into an amazing work of art.
Professor Mc Dermott outlined the Galway connections in this famous literary work. Gabriel Conroy the main character is actually James Joyce himself and Gabriel’s wife Gretta portrays the character of Nora Barnacle - James Joyce’s partner from Bowling Green, Galway City. Molly Ivers the bright spark in the story is from Galway. Michael Furey’s character is the story of Michael Bodkin who was Nora Barnacle’s first love. Michael Bodkin was born where Richardson’s pub, Eyre Square, is to day. Even my own native village is mentioned in ‘The Dead’ “ I cycled to Oughterard on Sunday and visited the graveyard of The Dead.”
James Joyce was an insanely jealous man and through the character of Michael Furey he tries to exorcise Michael Bodkin in ‘The Dead’.
‘The Dead’ is a story of what life would have been like for James Joyce and Nora Barnacle if they had remained in Dublin. “One cruelty, at least,I have not been guilty of. I have not killed the warm, impulsive, life givinglove of your rich nature.” Nora was a woman of great compassion. Throughout her thirty six years with her beloved James Joyce, Nora’s understanding, loyalty and compassion were to be severely tested but were never found wanting. She never lost a basic commonsense that helped her to evaluate what was important and essential and reject what was not, Neither did she ever lose touch with her native Galway or her cultural background.
Gabriel Conroy epitomizes Dublin thinking about country people, He realises in the end through his partner Gretta from the west that life in Ireland is not lived in Dublin alone. The last line of the story ends with:
“The time has come for him to set out on his journey west .”
He must return to the west just like James Joyce did to establish his relationship with the country in Galway and more importantly he returns to reestablish his relationship with his wife.
Ironically when I first heard this lecture, Professor Mc Dermott delivered it with great good humour on a day when the IMF and EU financiers marched into Dublin to sort out our financial affairs on the 18th November 2010. Perhaps James Joyce’s words are as apt to day as they were in 1904 when he wrote,
“My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin as the scene because that city seemed to me to be the center of paralysis.”