Gendered Sentimentality in "The Dead" and "Hearts of Darkness" Comparison Essay

Gendered Sentimentality in "The Dead" and "Hearts of Darkness"
A comparison and contrast of the construction of gender in James Joyce's "The Dead" and Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".
# 149322 | 2,075 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2009 | CA
Published on Dec 06, 2011 in Literature (English) , Literature (European (other))

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The paper relates that although both "Hearts of Darkness" and "The Dead" both associate female characters with everyday practical and realistic authority, they differ on which gender is assigned the negative trait of sentimentality. The paper discusses how "Hearts of Darkness" reads almost like an archaic remnant of the past with its misogynistic depictions of women as overly-sentimental, less intelligent than men and out of touch with reality. The paper contrasts this to James Joyce's short story "The Dead" that is more modern in its treatment of female characters, with sentimentality assigned to the main male character, Gabriel. The paper points out that in "Hearts of Darkness", the rift between male and female is in order to privilege a superior male existence, whereas in "The Dead" sentimentality is assigned to a male in order to emphasize the common humanity of both genders and to emphasize the lack of meaning in Gabriel's loveless existence.

From the Paper:

"Throughout "The Dead", female characters are associated with practicality and non-intellectual authority in opposition to Gabriel's self-absorbed, impractical sentimentality, which emphasizes that Gabriel's existence is lacking in meaningful love. The first female character associated with practicality is Lily, whom upon being questioned by Gabriel about her love life retorts that "the mean that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you" (Joyce 2173). In this instance, Gabriel idealizes the romance a young woman like Lily may experience in an unrealistic and overly sentimental way. Lily, on the other hand, recognizes the reality of her situation in a practical way by noting that romance is often just a pretence young men can use to seduce a woman is often just a pretence young men can use to seduce a woman without making any real commitment. Furthermore, Gabriel fails to recognize his difference in socioeconomic class from Lily. As a maid and a member of the lower class, Lily may not have had the luxury of marrying for romance in the same way that members of the upper class have. Lily is practical and has everyday common sense about the reality of her lower-class position, while Gabriel is too wrapped up in himself and his ideas about romance to recognize class difference, as indicated by his further insult to Lily when her forces her to take a coin from him (Joyce 2174)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of Darkness." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt.8th ed. Vol. F. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 1891 - 1943. Print. 6 vols.
  • Frick, Katie L. "Women's Mental Illness: A Response To Oppression." Women's Issues Then and Now.
  • University of Texas, 18 May 2002. Web. 22 Mar. 2010. http://www/
  • Joyce, James. "The Dead." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 8th ed. Vol. F.New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 2172 - 2199. Print. 6 vols.

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Gendered Sentimentality in "The Dead" and "Hearts of Darkness" (2011, December 06) Retrieved March 31, 2023, from

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"Gendered Sentimentality in "The Dead" and "Hearts of Darkness"" 06 December 2011. Web. 31 March. 2023. <>