Literature Study GuidesDublinersAfter The Race Summary

Dubliners | Study Guide

James Joyce

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After the Race

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of "After the Race" from James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners.

Dubliners | After the Race | Summary



A road race that ends in Dublin provides a chance to show off the "wealth and industry" of continental Europe in the form of automobiles. The crowds cheer for the French cars that place second and third in the race. One of the cars contains a Frenchman named Charles Ségouin, a Canadian named André Rivière, a Hungarian named Villona, and an Irishman named Jimmy Doyle. They are all in good spirits for a variety of reasons; Jimmy, because he is excited to be seen among such company.

Jimmy's father is a butcher who has amassed some wealth by opening shops all over the city. He sent Jimmy to a Catholic college in England, then to law school at Dublin University. Looking for a change of scene, Jimmy took a term at Cambridge in England where he met Ségouin and Villona. Ségouin is reported to be the owner of some of the largest hotels in France, but Villona is very poor. Jimmy's father is especially happy about his son's association with Ségouin and has encouraged Jimmy to invest in the car business.

After the race, Jimmy and Villona return to Jimmy's house to dress for dinner with Ségouin and the others at Ségouin's hotel. At dinner, an Englishman named Routh joins the party. The group talks about music and art, then Ségouin directs the conversation toward politics. The influence of Jimmy's father, an Irish Nationalist, comes into play as Jimmy and Routh argue. Ségouin averts disaster by proposing a toast "to Humanity," and the group ends dinner on a high note. They proceed to Stephen's Green, singing and talking. They encounter an American friend named Farley. The talk continues as they take a train to the harbor and a rowboat to Farley's yacht.

On the yacht, Villona plays piano and sings while the others eat, drink toasts to their respective countries, and play cards. Jimmy does not precisely track the game's progress, but he knows he is losing and the others are writing I.O.U.'s for him. Villona leaves the piano and goes on deck while the game continues between Routh and Ségouin. Jimmy wonders how much money he has lost as Routh wins the game. Afterward, Jimmy begins to feel pounding in his temples as Villona opens the door to let in the morning sunlight.


Jimmy's experience with his friends after the race serves as both a cautionary tale against overreach and a history lesson for the Irish. Because Jimmy's family is wealthy and well known by Dublin standards, Jimmy believes he can operate as an equal with a man who own hotels and another who owns a yacht. Jimmy is not wealthy on this kind of scale and it costs him dearly as he plays cards with them. He is not in a position to lose on a large scale because he is not drawing from the same reserves these men have at their disposal. Yet Jimmy is led into this situation, driven by social-climbing instincts encouraged by his father who appreciates the possible connections relationships with these men can provide. Jimmy likes being seen with these men. He likes the status he gets from being associated with them, and he wants to impress them.

Even though Jimmy has infiltrated this social circle, there is little evidence of true friendship among any of these men. They all seem to be driven by a desire to compete—hence the card game—and to see and be seen with the right company. Their eating and drinking together should provide or reflect some kind of bond and connection between them, but the relationships remain superficial. This context is particularly evident in the dinner, during which the discuss everything from the English madrigal to French mechanics, from romantic painters to politics. Yet they each spout their opinions without listening to one another, resulting in speechifying rather than true conversation.

Only the Hungarian Villona stands outside of all this madness. In contrast with Jimmy, Villona does not engage in any seemingly desperate measures to ingratiate himself with the group. He is very poor, and everyone knows this to be true. He dresses for dinner because it is expected, but there is no evidence he is trying to impress anyone. He does not participate in the card game later that night because he cannot afford to. He plays the piano for as long as he wants to, then he goes onto the deck of the boat to watch the sun rise. Yet he is accepted into this social circle, which indicates he is someone the group likes on his own merits, not because of his money or his connections. At the end of the evening, his is the voice of reason announcing the coming of the new day.

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