“After the Race” by James Joyce

I have never read anything by Joyce that I remember. It seems unlikely that I didn’t read at least an excerpt from something when I was in college, but if I did it didn’t stick with me.

“After the Race” is from Dubliners, first published in 1914. The story begins with a car race through Dublin and tells the story of Jimmy Doyle, a young Irishman who is riding with a Frenchman, Segouin, the rich owner of the car who is starting motor business. Jimmy is the son of a wealthy merchant, well-educated and well-provided for. He is aware of how much work it was for his father to attain his success and considers his investment with Segouin to be serious, although it did meet with his father’s approval.

Jimmy and his father want to associate with the higher social classes and Jimmy, after the race, joins the Frenchman and several friends for dinner. It’s a delight, then the party moves on to a yacht. At this point, things begin to go downhill for Jimmy. He drinks too much and loses too much money at a poker game.

Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.’s for him. They were devils of fellows but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.

It’s a sad story, really. Jimmy is so excited about the future and enjoying the company of his new friends. He sees prospects opening before him, but in the end, he’s drunk, broke, one of the “heaviest losers.”

I love how the conclusion. Jimmy is glad that it’s night, that he has a chance to rest before facing his mistakes, but at that moment one of the men throws open the door, letting the light in and announcing daybreak.

I definitely need to read more of Joyce’s writings. He’s considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and I enjoyed this short example.

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.

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