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Free Book Summary-Dubliners by James Joyce-Study Guide/Synopsis
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The theme here is a variation of the theme in "After the Race." There, Jimmy Doyle has a youthful infatuation with the glamour of mainland Europe and tries unsuccessfully to identify with it. Chandler being one of the middle class and older canít afford that luxury. Yet he too looks on his life and surroundings as stagnant and a backwater. The feelings of the colonized form a strong element in this story too. To Chandler the bright lights of the colonial rulerís cities seem to contain all that is attractive and cultured.

Chandler is seen somewhat more sympathetically as Duffy in "A Painful Case." Joyce has some sympathy for his frustration in his drab and hard working life. Yet he shows that Chandler has been happy with his life though somewhat repressed. Hence, at another level, it is the feeling that life has passed one by and that, opportunities have been lost, that troubles him.

Gallaher represents for him one who has explored his opportunities and lived life fully. He sees himself as faint- hearted in contrast. After meeting Gallaher, he is disillusioned with him, yet this only worsens his own feeling of frustration-as he feels how much better a man of his talents could have done with Gallaherís opportunities.

In "A Little Cloud" in passing Joyce deals with the misery of the poor in the shanties of Dublin. He shows how Chandler lost in fantasies of European high living is insensitive to the life around him-the "grimy urchins", the "decrepit old men", the "minute vermin-like life" of Dublin.



Little Chandler

Like many other Dubliners, Chandler is a man approaching middle age, settled into married life, in a frustrating clerical job, where his poetic nature is suppressed. Being sensitive he is aware of his mediocrity and uneasy about it. Gallaherís return is the "little cloud" which disturbs his mundane existence. It stirs excitement at first, followed by frustration and self-pity. The initial joy he feels at meeting an old friend is swept away by disillusion at Gallaherís vulgarity. Chandler is a loving person, deeply attached to his old friend, to his wife and son. He tries to assert this contentment to Gallaher, who is not convinced. Gallaher stirs up Chandlerís consciousness of losing his youth and its accompanying dreams-of travel, of fame and fortune.

When the child cries, it reminds him he is a "prisoner for life." But the childís misery and his wifeís anger awaken him from his dreams, shame and remorse fill his mind bringing him back to his reality.


Gallaher is seen by us at first through Chandlerís memories-the wild, dynamic, talented youth, for whom Dublin was too small. There is the odd hint of coarseness-in the Ďshady affair, some money transactioní-which had made him leave in a hurry. Later we see Gallaher in the flesh: a coarse, gaudily dressed man, with an "unhealthy pallor" and lips "very long and shapeless and colorless". He is far from the creature of Chandlerís imagination-worried about aging patronizing; and full of bluster. His views on marriage are crudely commercial, and he boasts -"Iíve only to say the word and tomorrow I can have the woman and the cash." Gallaher is portrayed as a stereotype by Joyce, and is seen very clearly from the outside.


The beginning establishes Chandlerís personality and builds up a sense of anticipation about Gallaher. Then comes the actual meeting, which creates a tension between Chandlerís picture of his friend, and the real Gallaher. In the concluding section, we have Chandler back to his familiar world, chafing against it. This comes to a head with the childís bout of crying-which brings a new awareness and shame to Chandler.


The theme is the dual one. One aspect is the typical middle class Irishmanís feeling of inferiority in relation to the European "mainstream"- of looking on those working in London or Europe as being "successful." On the other hand, his protagonist is on the verge of middle age and regrets all the lost opportunities of his youth.



Having identified Chandler as a man of poetic sensitivity, Joyce depicts Dublin through his eyes-thus "the shower of kindly golden dust which covers "the untidy nurses and decrepit old men" in the park. The "grimy children---like mice upon the thresholds", and the "gaunt spectral mansions"-the teeming life of the present and the ruined splendor of the past are evoked by these two images. Several images, like the comparing of the rich patronesses of the restaurant to "alarmed Atalantas", or the "dark Oriental eyes" of the rich Jewesses all serve to illustrate the poetic fantasies of Chandler and his wish to get away from reality.

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