Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Discussing "A Little Cloud" with Students Trey W., Bessie B., and Roark M.
A Little Cloud
One of Joyce’s favorite devices to use in Dubliners is to make his protagonist into an allegorical representation of Ireland and other characters into representations of English Imperialism. We saw this in Araby, where the young boy was presented with predominantly English items at the bazaar, and left feeling disillusioned. This “paralysis” has been well documented in other posts on this blog. This passage will focus on the ways that Joyce uses imagery and to make his allegory effective once again.
The imagery of Ireland begins with the name, “Little Chandler”. As one of the students from Greenhill pointed out, Chandler really isn’t that small. Everyone around him however, belittles him, either intentionally or just out of habit. He works very diligently to make himself presentable, “[taking] the greatest care of his fair silken hair and moustache”, but behind all of it has “childish white teeth”—the inner portions of him have never developed. This is a reference to the slums within Ireland, a country that, at the time, was desperately trying to display an independence to outside influences.
When Chandler meets his friend, he is overwhelmed by admiration for him. He becomes hopeful thinking about him, wondering if perhaps the influence of such a successful writer could help him, a struggling writer, become more successful. Simply substitute ‘writer’ for ‘country’ and you have how Ireland initially viewed England.
As Gallaher complains about how “press life” wears him down, Chandler slowly stops adoring him and becomes jealous, furious that his friend has become so successful and he has not had any luck. He becomes so envious of Gallaher’s life that he grows embarrassed by his own, blushing at the mention of his family, who, once an accomplishment, have now become a failure, an admittance of defeat. He struggles to cast off the other life as immoral, but is taken in by how Gallaher relates it and wishes even more that he was out of Dublin. The final nail is driven in when Gallaher dismisses marriage as a loveless institution, one only good for marrying into money.
Throughout the conversation, Ireland has become more and more anti-English, but it still has not stopped trying to impress them. Like a child trying to impress their older brother, Ireland is ashamed when caught keeping old traditions alive-- England doesn’t do the whole marry for love thing, so why should Ireland?
Even after the dinner is over and both men are fairly drunk, Chandler retains the message of how inept his life is in comparison to Gallaher’s. He feels useless, stuck in place, and can no longer relate to his wife and child. Just like Ireland, Chandler is confused by England’s influence. On one hand, he hates England for its successes and its attack on his traditions. On the other hand he is envious, wishing to be able to cast off his moral and hereditary chains and join Gallaher in England.
We state that Joyce repeatedly uses the “Everyone is Ireland” allegory in his work. How does he use it in other stories? If there are any stories that don’t follow the model as obviously as this one, post them and we can try to decode the allegory, if it exists at all.