In The Dead Joyce brings his early realistic style equally close to his latter style when he employs a wide range of strategies for presenting thought in the third rather than the first person. One of Joyce's great achievements as a stylist is his development of third person narrating strategies that create an effect of intimacy essentially similar to the effect of first person techniques. By the end of The Dead, his mastery of free indirect discourse strategy is evident. (Attridge:126) Through Joyce's narrative technique we as readers can see how he combines indirect and direct discourse which allows the effect of the characters idiom to permit Joyce to be a detached narrator. In The Dead, Gabriel Conroy faces problems and questions his own identity due to a series of internal attacks and external factors that lead him to an epiphany about his relation to the world. This epiphany grants him a new beginning. The progression in Gabriel from one who feels disconnected to one who has hope parallels Joyce's changing view of Ireland from finding it to be a place of inaction to one where again hope and beauty thrive. In The Dead Gabriel Conroy and his wife attend a party thrown annually by two of Gabriel's aunts. .
The set of external circumstances at this party focuses attention on the futility and meaninglessness of Gabriel's life. In this short story, Joyce through his discourse makes the point that a life without passion, without intensity, means that a person is essentially already "dead." Joyce paints Gabriel, his protagonist, as a super-sensitive individual who lacks confidence in his own abilities, yet as with many insecure people is also convinced of his own superiority. A passionate person, Gabriel has kept careful control over his emotions for his entire life. As the story progresses, Gabriel realises that in doing this, he has essentially condemned himself to a "dead" existence.