Politics in “After the Race” from Joyce’s Dubliners

Flag of the Republic of Ireland -- The Kilmainham Gaol Dublin Ireland May 2018
Picture by Ron Cogswell

(Type A: I write first, then I ask ChatGPT to write)

The short story “After the Race” from the book Dubliners by James Joyce seems to be a story that explores the socioeconomic and political issues in Ireland at the time of the book’s publication in 1914.  

From the start of the story, Joyce demonstrates the socioeconomic situation in Ireland at the time. After the race, the people who had gathered to see the cars are characterized as a “channel of poverty and inaction” as well as “the gratefully oppressed,” and the group of foreign cars is characterized by “its wealth and industry” (37). This seems to show that Ireland at the time was not very wealthy, especially when compared to the industry of France or Germany. Jimmy, the main character, is constantly comparing himself to Segouin, the Frenchman, especially in terms of wealth. “Then as to money—he [Jimmy] really had a great sum under his control. Segouin, perhaps, would not think it a great sum but Jimmy…knew with that difficulty it had been got together” (38).  Jimmy seems to recognize the exceptionality of his family’s wealth but also its meagerness compared to his friends’ wealth.

Throughout the story, Joyce also alludes to the international position of Ireland and its politics at the time. One example of this is Irish nationalism, a movement where various Irish groups campaigned for self-rule separate from the United Kingdom. In 1914, the Government of Ireland Act was passed by the United Kingdom’s Parliament intending to give Ireland home rule, but it was never enacted because of the outbreak of World War I. In the story, Joyce describes Jimmy’s father as previously being “an advanced Nationalist [who] had modified his views early” (37). Additionally, we can see this idea again when Segouin brings up politics during his dinner party. Jimmy feels “the buried zeal of his father wake to life within him,” a.k.a. Irish nationalism, and he and Routh, the Englishman, start to disagree (40). This is a reference to the political climate at the time in Ireland.

I think that Joyce’s exploration of the political and socioeconomic situation in Ireland is fascinating, especially when he does it through the interactions of young men from different countries.

*The page numbers that I use in this blog post are from a Kindle version of the book Dubliners by James Joyce.

ChatGPT Prompt: Write a 250 word blog post about the short story “After a Race” from James Joyce’s Dubliners that explores the political and socioeconomic context.

James Joyce’s “After the Race,” one of the short stories from his collection Dubliners, is a poignant exploration of the political and socioeconomic context of early 20th century Ireland. While Joyce’s narrative primarily focuses on the experiences of the main character, Jimmy Doyle, it subtly weaves in the societal factors that shaped his world.

Set against the backdrop of an upper-class, cosmopolitan Dublin, “After the Race” highlights the growing influence of money and materialism in Irish society. Doyle, a young man from a wealthy family, is caught up in the allure of European wealth and sophistication. He becomes entangled with a group of international friends, showcasing the desire of the Irish elite to be part of a broader, more cosmopolitan world.

The story also touches on the political situation of the time. Ireland was then under British rule, and the struggle for independence was simmering in the background. Jimmy’s obsession with racing and opulence symbolizes a certain detachment from the nationalistic fervor of his compatriots. Instead of being actively involved in the fight for Irish autonomy, he seeks refuge in the superficiality of wealth and prestige.

Joyce’s portrayal of Jimmy’s character and his social circle serves as a commentary on the disconnect between the Irish elite and the broader population, many of whom were suffering under British rule and struggling with poverty. It highlights how, for some, the pursuit of wealth and status took precedence over the political and social issues of the time.

In conclusion, “After the Race” is a snapshot of the political and socioeconomic context of early 20th century Ireland. It reveals the tension between the desire for wealth and status among the elite and the pressing political issues of the day. Through Jimmy Doyle’s character, Joyce skillfully captures the complex web of social aspirations and political realities that defined this era in Irish history.

3 responses to “Politics in “After the Race” from Joyce’s Dubliners”

  1. Garrett Mast Avatar
    Garrett Mast

    The ChatGPT analysis of this article felt surprisingly good to me. Particularly, some of the wording in the second and third paragraphs, like being “caught in the allure of European wealth” or “the struggle for independence was simmering in the background,” read scarily natural to me, I think because it matches how I sometimes write. On top of this, there aren’t glaring falsities in the response and it makes valid points, such as Jimmy finding refuge in wealth rather than fighting for independence like his father, which as you pointed out, was noted as being extremely nationalist. And while Jimmy does feel some animosity towards Routh, its valid to say the initial connection between the two is not that of an Irishman and an Englishman, but of two wealthy individuals.

  2. Shelby Moore Avatar

    I love the way you summed this up and totally agree! I appreciate how Joyce uses everyday characters and emotions to create a window into the everyday life of people in this point of history.

  3. Hannah Benson Avatar
    Hannah Benson

    Your comment about how Joyce explores Ireland’s economic issues of the time through the young boys is a fascinating observation, considering how much of a melting pot Ireland is. And its very cool to see you make connections with how the political climate of the time had an economic impact on the people

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