Irish Nationalism in “A Mother” and “The Dead”

Blog Post Type A

My take:

In the short stories “A Mother” and “The Dead” by James Joyce, two characters approach participation in Irish nationalist movements very differently. This reveals their goals and sentiments towards the movement.

In “A Mother,” Joyce introduces Mrs Kearney as an opportunist, as “when the Irish Revival began to be appreciable, Mrs Kearney determined to take advantage of her daughter’s name…” She then specifically had her daughter Kathleen trained in Irish and networked with prominent Catholic nationalists in order to further her reputation and opportunities in life. She then acts as a pageant mother to Kathleen, negotiating her contract as an accompanist without even having her in the same room. She goes so far as to demand payment at the concert before the performance. For Mrs Kearney, her ambition for her daughter’s future trumped any patriotic sentiments, resulting in a shallow interest in the movement and the use of her daughter as a pawn to further her means.

However, in “The Dead,” Miss Ivors has her membership and devotion to Irish nationalism on full display in order to draw attention to the movement and challenge others. Her clothes, a high-collared dress and a brooch with “an Irish device”, distinguished her from other ladies that had more revealing stylish dresses. When partnered with Gabriel Conroy for a dance, their conversation revolves around Ireland and Irish nationalism. When she pushes him for his opinion on Ireland, he is embarrassed by his frustrated anti-Ireland outburst and having others overhear their conversation. Miss Ivors’ staunch devotion to Irish nationalism makes her distinct from others and even creates divisions in her social circle when her ideals inevitably clash with others. 

Within any group, there will be differing levels of involvement with its central ideas and activities. With these stories and different characters, Joyce shows how these characters affect others both inside and outside the group through their actions and beliefs. 

ChatGPT’s take:

James Joyce, the renowned Irish author, is celebrated for his literary exploration of Irish identity and nationalism. Two of his captivating short stories, “A Mother” and “The Dead,” offer a profound insight into the complex relationship between the Irish people and their homeland.

In “A Mother,” Joyce delves into the hardships faced by the working-class Dubliners and the harsh realities of life in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. The story revolves around Mrs. Kearney’s determination to ensure her daughter’s success in the Irish cultural revival movement. Through her character, Joyce highlights the dedication of many Irish citizens to preserve their cultural heritage and revive their language. This demonstrates a form of Irish nationalism rooted in cultural pride and the desire to reclaim their identity.

In “The Dead,” Joyce brings readers to the grandeur of an annual party hosted by the Morkan sisters. Beneath the festivities lies a poignant exploration of national identity. Gabriel Conroy’s encounter with his wife’s memory of a young Irish revolutionary, Michael Furey, draws attention to the sacrifices made for the cause of Irish independence. Furey’s death is symbolic of the price some paid for their devotion to the Irish nationalist movement.

Joyce’s portrayal of these characters and their stories reflects a nuanced view of Irish nationalism. It encompasses not only the political struggle for independence but also the cultural and emotional ties to Ireland’s heritage. Through the lens of “A Mother” and “The Dead,” Joyce invites readers to contemplate the multifaceted nature of Irish nationalism – a fusion of cultural pride, historical consciousness, and the yearning for a free and authentic Ireland.

In conclusion, James Joyce’s “A Mother” and “The Dead” offer a captivating exploration of Irish nationalism. They shed light on the profound impact of cultural revival and the sacrifices made by those who yearned for a united and independent Ireland. These stories continue to resonate with readers, reminding us of the enduring importance of national identity and heritage in the Irish context.

Image credit: Colorado State University Music Department, October 1, 2015, https://music.colostate.edu/events/student-recital-tyler-adamthwaite-composer/griffin/


  • Elijah Pearce

    After looking at all these ChatGPT posts over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed two more phrases/words that it likes to use: “captivate/captivating” and “In conclusion.” It’s not that I think these phrases are bad, but I definitely feel as if I see them in ChatGPT’s work more often than I see them in other places.

  • Brian Croxall

    Your analysis is much more “compelling” than ChatGPT’s, Hayley. I think your spot-on in your depiction of Mrs. Kearney. What I’m less clear about is how Joyce wants us to feel about Miss Ivors. Gabriel is clearly a stuffed shirt, but I’m not convinced the depiction of Miss Ivors is entirely positive.

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