James Joyce’s novella “The Dead,” like the collection of short stories in which it appeared (Dubliners ) and his great novel Ulysses (1922), is set in Dublin, where Joyce was born in 1882. Partly to gain perspective on Irish society and culture, Joyce spent most of his life in self-imposed exile in France and Italy – a decision that aligned him with many other important modern writers such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, both of whom abandoned their native America for Europe. Among Joyce’s major innovations is what Eliot calls the “mythic method,” which is to say, the use of patterns such as that found in the Homer’s Odyssey to give shape and meaning to the perceived chaos of history, experience, personal consciousness, and contemporary life.
Joyce’s work has influenced a great many writers, including Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, and Salman Rushdie. His novels and short stories have also given rise to a critical industry of gargantuan proportions and complexity. Every year, his life and work are celebrated on June 16, the day in which the entire action of Ulysses takes place (see Bloomsday).
Here for comparison are two versions of the ending of “The Dead”: