Silver Streams Issue 3 | Page 21

37 career by hostile, misogynistic and corrupted institutions. However, Joyce's harsh criticism in ‘The Dead’ only interests the Irish musical world, not music itself, of which he was a great lover. Indeed, the most relevant and positive moments in ‘The Dead’, itself a sort of ​ coda ​ to the whole collection, are originated by music. While obsessively trying his speech, wondering whether it would be too pretentious to quote his review of Browning in presence of such an uneducated audience, Gabriel listens to Aunt Julia’s song. This is a powerful, unifying moment, where no speech nor struggle are allowed. As Norris 38 rightly notes, there is no place for irony in this description: Her voice, strong and clear in tone, attacked with great spirit the runs which embellish the air and though she sang very rapidly she did not miss even the smallest of the grace notes. To follow the voice, without looking at the singer’s face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight. Gabriel applauded loudly with all the others at the close of 39 the song and loud applause was borne in from the invisible supper-table. It is a great domestic performance: Aunt Julia is happy, her guests are enjoying ‘the tradition of 40 genuine, warm-hearted courteous Irish hospitality’. Gabriel gives his speech that, against his expectations, is a success, and interestingly replaces the phrase he wanted to use, ‘thought-tormented music’ with ‘thought-tormented age’, thus generalizing a characteristic of a poem by Browning (whose dramatic verse could easily apply for the definition of ‘tormented 41 music’) to a whole ​ époque ​ . From this point on, a complicated process of mirroring and foreshadowing begins. The party draws to a close, and in the hallway Gabriel witnesses to the epiphany of his wife. Interestingly, he does not recognize her at first: 42 A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also, which prefigures the revelation on the third part of the story, when Gabriel realizes her wife is a stranger to him. He ‘strains his ear’ to listen to the song that has enraptured her. Yet, his effort does not suffice to make him enter in contact with her, as he ignores the meaning the piece has for her: He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant 43 music, a symbol of. 44 Thus the woman is objectified as a work of art. Gabriel only sees her appearance, oblivious to her deep emotional life. It is the famous tenor Bartell d'Arcy, one of the guests invited to the party, that, after having declined to sing because of a cold, now is singing a song […] in the old Irish tonality and the singer seemed uncertain both of this words and 37 In ‘The Dead’, Aunt Julia is forced to abandon the choir after devoting her whole life to it, due to a papal act which banished women from church choirs. See J. Morgan, ‘Queer Choirs: Sacred Music, Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, and the Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism’, in ​ James Joyce Quarterly ​ , vol. 37 n. ½, University of Tulsa (Tulsa, 2000), pp. 127-151. 38 M. Norris, ‘The Politics of Gender and Art in ‘The Dead’’. 39 J. Joyce, ‘The Dead’, p. 274. 40 Ibid. ​ , p. 286. 41 See J. Feely, ‘Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ and the Browning Quotation’, in ​ James Joyce Quarterly ​ , vol. 20, n° 1, University of Tulsa (Tulsa, 1982), pp. 87-96. 42 J. Joyce, ‘The Dead’, p. 293. 43 Ibid. ​ , p. 294. 44 M. Norris, ‘The Politics of Gender and Art in ‘The Dead’’.