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Free Book Summary-Dubliners by James Joyce-Study Guide/Synopsis
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The story moves from the drab office of Little Chandler, through the grimy depressing streets of down town Dublin, to the flashy, fashionable bar where he is to meet his successful friend, Gallaher. The scenes are as elsewhere in the book, contemporary with Joyceís life. Later, Chandler returns to his cozy home, which he finds dull and shabby compared to the glamorous place, he has just left.


Little Chandler

A young clerk, reluctant to face middle age, and discontented with his humdrum life.

Ignatius Gallaher

A brash, rather aggressive old school-friend of Chandler, who works as a journalist in London.

Mrs. Chandler

Chandlerís practical wife and a devoted mother.



"Little" Chandler, a youngish clerk in a Dublin office. Otherwise happily married and content with his simple life, Chandler is shaken up by a meeting with his old school-friend, Gallaher, who has "made it" in London.


Chandler looks on Gallaher with mixed hostility and affection due to the successful aura he sees him with. However, there is no real antagonist here.


After his meeting with Gallaher, Chandler walks home in a cloud of frustration and self-disgust. His previously comfortable home seems now to be shabby. His abstraction causes him to neglect his weeping child and his wifeís inevitable anger serves as a revelation to him.


The little cloud of frustration in which Chandler comes home is shattered by his childís weeping and his wifeís anger. He is left penitent and ashamed.


There is a gentle satire in Joyceís handling of Chandlerís situation, especially when dealing with his "poetic" ambitions. However, the satire is light and not hard hitting and his sympathy lies with people like Chandler, while exposing his colonial attitude and his frustration, with some humor.


Little Chandler who "gave one the idea of being a little man" is a clerk at a Dublin office. He is very excited this particular evening as he is to meet an old friend Ignatius Gallaher. Gallaher, who had left for London eight years ago, is back on a visit. Always the most dynamic among his friends, Gallaher is said to be "a brilliant figure on the London Press."

Chandler is not really little in size, he has white small hands and seems quiet and refined. A great lover and collector of poetry, he has never given into the urge to read poetry to his wife as "shyness had always held him back."

Chandler sets out for his long awaited reunion with Gallaher. He walks down the street, quite unaware of the "grimy children" who "squatted like mice on thresholds", and of the "gaunt, spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin had roistered." His mind is indifferent to the past, being too "full of a present joy." They are to meet at "Corlessís" an elegant bar where the customers eat oysters and drink liqueurs and the waiters speak French and German. To Chandlerís fancy, the richly-gowned women seem like spirits who "caught up their dresses, when they touched earth, like alarmed Atalantas." Chandler recalls that he had seen "many signs of future greatness in his friend. Others had called him wild, and he had left under the shadow of "some shady affair", but he had talent and "kept up a bold face."

Looking around, Chandler feels superior "the dull inelegance of Capel Street," the houses like "a band of tramps, huddled together." In another flight of fancy, he wonders whether he could put his ideas down into poetry. Perhaps Gallaher could get it published in some London paper? He goes as far as planning his pen name and the Celtic image he can cultivate! In this daydream he misses the turning and has to walk back.

After all this Gallaher is a let down. He has an unhealthy pallor, thinning hair and a fear of aging. His clothes are loud, his tie a bright orange. They talk of old times and old friends. Gallaher boasts about the fast life of Paris and the dullness of London. Chandler realizes there is "something vulgar in his friend which he had not observed before." Gallaher patronizes him, saying he should travel to broaden his mind, yet his own mind seems packed with the scandals of the "outside world."

Gallaher congratulates Chandler on his marriage and his child but says he wouldnít willingly "put his head in the sack", unless the woman "has a good fat account at the bank." He refuses Chandlerís invitation to his home on some pretext. Chandler is quite confused by the drinks and strong cigars theyíve had. The equipoise of his sensitive nature "is disturbed by this fleeting contact with a more exciting world. He regrets his timidity, without which he feels he could have surpassed Gallaherís "mere tawdry journalism", and resents his old friendís patronage.

Later that night he goes home in a daze, forgetting the groceries he was asked to buy. His wife goes for them, in a temper, leaving him with their sleeping toddler. He has always been devoted to his wife. Now he gazes resentfully at her picture, finding something "mean" in it. "Why was it so unconscious and lady like?" he wonders. She fails to match up to the voluptuous women of Gallaherís tales. Chandler is filled with a longing to escape his "prim and pretty house", his unexciting life. Just then, the child half wakes and begins to sob. Failing to pacify him, Chandler shouts in anger, and the boy begins to howl in fright. His wife runs into the house, furiously and pacifies the child. Chandler, in disgrace, listens sadly. "...tears of remorse started to his eyes."

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