Friday, September 28, 2012

James Joyce's Dubliners--"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

The first three stories of Dubliners take place from the perspective of a young boy ("Sisters," "An Encounter," and "Araby").  "Eveline" is from the perspective of a young woman. The next two stories, "After the Race" and "Two Gallants," show Dublin from the perspective of young men.

In "After the Race," a young, wealthy Irishman named Jimmy is reveling in his wealth and his many friends.  In particular, he's captivated by his French friend, Segouin.  The night begins happily--Jimmy is excited to be dining with such fine Europeans, and his family is proud.  But as the night progresses, tensions arise in the party.  First, an argument over politics threatens to disrupt the peace of the party.  But it is quickly resolved, and the party decides to visit a yacht owned by a wealthy American.  On the yacht, Jimmy begins drinking heavily--it is the "Bohemian" thing to do. Once he is terribly drunk, the men begin playing card games and gambling. He becomes is confused that he "frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.'s for him." It's here that Jimmy begins to doubt his friends, wishing that they would stop.  He dimly feels that they are taking advantage of him (with good reason).  He dreads that the morning will bring to light his follies, and he longs for darkness to cover up his mistakes.  But within moments of that wish, a friend of his announces it's dawn.  This story captures what Joyce considered the over-eagerness of the Irish upper class to prove themselves to a treacherous European upper class.  Dublin, he writes "wore the mask of a capital," although it was still legally controlled by the British empire at the time.  Jimmy naively assumes that his friends value him for himself and admire him for his wealth. But by taking advantage of him, they demonstrate their contempt for him.  Tellingly, the other man they rip off is an American, another outsider to Europe.  The coming of dawn is usually a metaphor for enlightenment, but in this case it is unwelcome; Jimmy wants to cling to his illusions about himself and his supposed friends. His realizations about his place in European society are devastating, and his humiliation is complete.

"Two Gallants" focuses on two young men in Dublin, this time members of the lower middle class. Corley and Lenahan are discussing Corley's tricks for seducing women.  He has a new girl that he's going to meet, and Lenahan comes along to get a look at her, then meet up with Corley afterwards. As Corley leaves with his girl, Lenahan absently wanders the streets of Dublin.  He's short of money, so he only buys some pea soup for dinner.  He worries that Corley is going to betray him or abandon him in some way.  When he sees Corley leaving a park with his girl, he anxiously wonders if their gig is up.  But when Corley finally meets up with Lenahan, he shows him a gold coin he's gotten from his girl.  It's not until then that the reader fully understands--the two men were not only talking about taking advantage of women sexually--they also intended to take money from them, either as loans they'll never repay, or perhaps as some kind of extortion.  The title of the story thus has a bitter irony--these men are far from gallant.  Instead of being brave or heroic, they are parasites who leech money and sexual favors from the women they prey on.  The young woman in their scam is described as "stout short and muscular" with "blunt" features.  Her "Sunday finery" includes a "ragged black boa." It's clear from her description that the young woman is herself poor and plain, and thus particularly vulnerable to the flattery Corley likely uses to entice her, and that she can ill afford his leeching away of her hard-earned money.  Lenahan's fear that Corley will abandon him makes more sense; Corley is clearly practiced at abandoning the women he's using.  The casual cruelty these men demonstrate indicates the deep fissure between the sexes in Joyce's Dublin--many men no longer show gallantry or concern for the women, but only try to use them.

Dubliners blogs:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"

"Araby" and "Eveline"

"The Boarding House"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"

"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"


"The Dead"

Blogs for James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five

Blogs for James Joyce's Ulysses: 

Chapter Six, Hades

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