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After the Race

Author: Joyce, James

Genre: Short Story

Year: 1914

Description:

The story begins with a car race in progress through the streets of Dublin. The cars mostly carry continental crews, except one in which a young Irishman named Jimmy Doyle is riding with Charles Segouin, a Frenchman, Segouin’s French-Canadian cousin, and Villona, a Hungarian. Jimmy is the well-provided and well-educated son of a wealthy merchant. He is conscious that his father had to go through great pains to achieve his success and is careful not to squander his money. His investment in the race is considered wise by his father. After the race, the group dine at Segouin’s hotel. The dinner is considered an accomplishment in the Doyle family home, where Jimmy and Villona go to change. The influence of alcohol emboldens Jimmy to challenge Routh, an Englishman, on political issues of Irish Nationalism, prompting Segouin to intervene unobtrusively but decisively. The party continues on the yacht of an American named Farley, where Jimmy loses a lot of money at cards. Jimmy realizes he will suffer regret in the morning but looks forward to the intervention of sleep. At that moment, Villona opens the cabin door and announces that morning has arrived.

At the beginning of the story, before the characters are introduced, the cars speed through Inchicore, and the writer's own voice remarks that "through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry" and the Irish onlookers raise "the cheer of the gratefully oppressed".

Motor cars at the early 1900's were generally considered a luxury item, here serving as the symbol of the richer, wider world beyond the confines of backward Ireland. The protagonist Jimmy Doyle seeks to enter this wider cosmopolitan society and carve an equal place for himself, but this ends in failure: he finds himself out of his depth, becomes drunk and unable to keep track of the card game, and ends up losing heavily to the Englishman Routh whom he earlier challenged. The story can thus be seen as skeptical about the aspirations of Irish Nationalism to make an independent Ireland the equal of other countries.

 

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