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Free Book Summary-Dubliners by James Joyce-Study Guide/Synopsis
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Dominated by Corley, Lenehan is in a way more repulsive, as he depends on handouts from his ill-gotten gains. He has to be subservient to every such "friend" who stands him a free drink. But he tries to regain his autonomy by giving a mocking edge to his flattery-as when he calls Corely a "base betrayer."

The voyeuristic way in which he follows every one of Corley’s exploits, his eagerness to see the girl, all betray his shadowy existence. He seems to have no life of his own and lives only through his friends "adventures." Sometimes, he feels frustrated at having nothing of his own but he hasn’t the determination to change anything. This forces him to ignore every kind of insult when he "sings" for his supper and his drinks. The portrait of Lenehan is sensitive but unsparing, conveying a sense of stagnation and passivity in the lower depths of Dublin society of the time.


The son of a police inspector, he enjoys the physical features which appeal to poor working girls who believe him to be a "gentleman." Joyce shows the corruption in him grow from simply seducing poor girls to actually selling them his sexual favors. Corley is studied only from the outside, unlike Lenehan, and we are left with the picture of a boastful, insensitive, corrupt man to whom the women he uses are all "tarts" "slaveys" or at best "a bit of alright." He has no regrets about any of his actions. Corley requires Lenehan almost as much as the latter needs him, for an "approving audience to certify his own "success" in the field.


After describing the evening, deceptively cheerful with its lights and crowds, Joyce moves on to his ‘gallants’, who stroll around aimlessly passing time, till Corley’s ‘date’ appears. This lack of any concrete action stands for the stagnation in their lives and in the larger society. The meeting between the girl and Corley is only mentioned and the story ends with the triumphant production of the gold coin.


How modern urban society spawns parasites who prey on others is the focus of this story. Only these "gallants" are small parasites who are themselves victims of an underdeveloped colonial society, with little scope for employment or progress.



Joyce evokes in detail the backdrop of the evening against which we see the "gallants." It is a gray, warm evening, with an "unchanging increasing murmur "being sent up into the air by the "the living texture" below. The mass of people is thus seen as dehumanized. The demoralized characters of the gallants then flow naturally from this.

The only other image is of the harpist playing "heedlessly and wearily" a melancholy tune-"Silent, O Moyle."

The refrain to this is-

"Yet still in her darkness doth, Erin lie sleeping

Still doth the pure lights its dawning delay."

Even the harp is personified and described thus: "heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her masters hands." The picture that emerges is one of a decaying society, of people leading a meaningless degenerate existence, with no will to change anything. The stagnation of a colonial economy is also suggested where employment is always hard to get.

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Dubliners by James Joyce-Free Online Book Notes Study Guide/Synopsis


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