Dubliners by James Joyce: Two Gallants

‘Two Gallants’, the next short story in Dubliners, narrates the story of two men, one of whom seeks to obtain money from a prostitute acquaintance. Lenehan, our main character, follows Corley, the flirt, like a “disciple” in this mission for mammon (p. 55). The title is comic since the two ‘gallants’ are two men cheating a prostitute out of her “small gold coin” (p. 55). The following passage stood out to me. Lenehan is tired of the games young men, including himself, play with women.

When he had eaten all the peas he sipped his ginger beer and sat for some time thinking of Corley’s adventure. In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some dark road; he heard Corley’s voice in deep energetic gallantries and saw again the leer of the young woman’s mouth. This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long enough with friends and with girls. He knew what those friends were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready?

He paid twopence halfpenny to the slatternly girl and went out of the shop to begin his wandering again. (pp. 51-52)

Aren’t we all tired of wandering from desire to desire? Lenehan is literally going back to wandering, in wait of his friend to come back with ‘the slavey.’ However, this struck me as an image of the human life. We wander and wander, and we want to rest. We strongly want rest, yet when we are offered it (there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity of rest in this short story), we deny it and begin our wandering again. Can a simple-minded girl stop us from wandering?

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