Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Some Reflections on "After the Race" by Students Nathaniel P., Jonathan C., and Thomas M.
Individuality in "After the Race"
by Nathaniel P., Jonathan C., and Thomas M.
Of all the stories present in Dubliners, the concept of individuality, or in this case the distinct lack thereof, is most present in After the Race. Throughout the story it is apparent to the reader that Jimmy (the Irish protagonist) has no real say in what’s going on but is content anyways, happy to be party to such established men as Ségouin (the Frenchman) , Routh (the Englishman), Farley (the American), and Villona (the Hungarian). Obviously these men stand for their representative countries, but that’s another matter entierly. This feeling of “grateful inferiority” is perhaps most obvious when the reader is told that “They [Ségouin and Jimmy] were not much more than acquaintances as yet but Jimmy found great pleasure in the society of one who had seen so much of the world and was reputed to own some of the biggest hotels in France.” Jimmy, like Ireland, does his best to fit in with the rest of the party but, despite his best efforts, is held at best as an accidental companion by the more established men, despite the fact that they are the foreigners and Jimmy is the native. This lack of self is most present when the men are gambling on Farley’s yacht. Jimmy is so inebriated that, though he realizes that he is losing terribly, he feels powerless to cash in what he has left and leave, thus choosing by default to stay and lose almost all that he has on him. This is made clear when we are told that“Jimmy felt obscurely the lack of an audience: the wit was flashing. Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing.” The game’s winners are, of course, the Frenchman and Englishman, and despite having lost his belongings as well as his sense of self, Jimmy is happy to be held in what could be described as grateful inferiority.
Thoughts for readers:
1. How does individuality, or the lack thereof, play into the rest of Dubliners?
2. How could one expand upon the obvious symbolism (countries represented by men) present in "After the Race"? What about the Race itself? What things could it symbolize?
3. Think about the scene where Jimmy and Routh argue “politics.” What are they talking about? What is going on between Ireland and England around the time the story was written? What is significant about Ségouin’s involvement in the discussion?
4. Does Jimmy's lack of distinct identity make him more isolated or more connected as a character?
5. What is Jimmy's "epiphany" by the end of the story?