In the collection of short stories titled Dubliners, Joyce tries to show through his short stories a wide range of characters that exhibit different views and ideas on life. Gabriel Conroy in The Dead as well as James Duffy in A Painful Case have the same egoistic views on love and marriage as well as the family and society. Their views set a high standard which neither men are able to attain. The personalities of these two characters and how they deal with the issues in life is the focus in Joyce's two short stories.
Gabriel Conroy in The Dead, is a university professor. He is well respected among his social class and his family members, but Gabriel's social arrogance makes him believe that his education makes him superior to everyone. This can be seen when he first talks to Lily and upon her answer to his question Gabriel feels that " he had failed with the girl in the pantry."(Dubliners, page 179) He receives her answer as a personal failure on his side. Same respect to the society and his family can be seen later on when he tries to restructure his speech " for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers." (Dubliners, page 179) He continues on in the same tone, "The indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his. He would only make himself ridiculous by quoting poetry to them, which they could not understand." (Dubliners, page 179) .
This personal arrogance leads Gabriel to realize something that excluded him so far in his life: love. After checking into his hotel room, for the first time he hears something from his wife Gretta that he never heard before. She tells him about Michael Furey, and how he gave his life to show his love for Gretta. This realization makes Gabriel cry and realize something inside him, "He had never felt like that himself toward any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.