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On Sunday, my wonderful triad all went to the local Renaissance Faire.  This is actually the second time this year that the three of use went together.  However, the first time was the trip when we opened up a bit more.  I shared my relationship with my boyfriend with a friend who did not know.  So what does this have to do with “The Dead”?

My reading of “The Dead” has always centered on the that when we communicate, humans always fail – Shelley wrote about this concept.  That no matter what, words will always fail to adequately express our unique experiences.  This is also a theme repeated in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” with the narrator’s refrain of “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”  I am often struck by this idea of failed communication.  The most constant claim about Poly is the importance of communication.

painting of a dinner party circa 1900s

“The Dead” James Joyce

So I wonder about “The Dead.” In the story, a husband and wife are at a party. They watch a singer preform a song.  The husband watches the wife during the performance.  He is struck by her appearance, and she reminds him of painting.  This all leads to some amorous feelings on his part.  She, however, is reminded of a young man from her past.  It wasn’t a sexual relationship (but that wouldn’t really matter).  He loved her, and she was leaving to go to the convent school.  He was ill, but braved the weather and his health to see her one last time.  He dies a week later.  She is not thinking about sex – but she is thinking about grief and sorrow.  So this couple, experiences the same event, but with very different views of the event. As the story was written in 1914, by Joyce, it focuses on the husband’s response to this misunderstanding. It ends up being a rumination on his part about this other relationship – a relationship and part of his wife’s past that he didn’t know. There is even an exploration of his own views on love and passion. After all, he’s never risked his life for love. It ends up being this weird, sad moment where these two people cannot communicate with each other. No one is at fault, or even being hurtful or cruel. It seemed to to me (when I first read it), and now that it is poking at the limitations culture puts on our communication. After all, to talk about loving others is taboo.

I suspect that today, the story would still read the same. Whether due to women still being objects – we belong to our lovers, husbands, boyfriends – in a way they do do not belong to us. Or because as a culture we still view love as a scarcity. I must give all my love to one person, at least all my romantic love – as it is still ok to love my children, my parents, my siblings… – If I seek to split that love, even without acting upon it, I am bad.

This post hasn’t really shaped up the way I thought it would. A friend of mine recently said that some paradigms are harder to shift than others. I think that is where I am at. I am still shifting my paradigms, which is weird as generally, I feel great about my relationships. I am comfortable, confident, and happy. Maybe these paradigms of one love are so ingrained that I subconsciously think I should consistently feel bad…

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