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Two Gallants A short story by James Joyce published in his 1914 collection Dubliners. Two men, Lenehan and Corley, are walking the streets of central Dublin on a Sunday evening. Corley dominates the conversation telling Lenehan about a girl he has recently seduced, a maid who works for a wealthy family. He brags about how the girl supplies him with cigars and cigarettes, which she steals from the family. Corley considers his relationship with this girl superior compared to when he used to ask women out and spend money on them.The two men have arranged a meeting with the maid, where the aim is to convince the maid to bring them money, stolen from her employees.

Corley has a date with the girl later that evening, and before he leaves Lenehan to see her, the two of them arrange to meet up later. Meanwhile Lenehan aimlessly walks the streets of Dublin to pass the time. He stops into a bar, for a meal and a beer. While he eats his dinner, he sadly reflects on his life.

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Lenehan leaves the bar and makes his way to meet Corley at the appointed hour.When Corley arrives he shows Lenehan the golden coin, as a sign that the plan was successful. James Joyce sets up expectations, which he all violates. Like in the title “Two Gallants” you immediately get the impression, that this is a love story about to fine gentlemen. This impression is reinforced by the first sequence, where Joyce describes the city and ambiance: “The grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of summer circulated in the streets shuttered for the shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd.

Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles on the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging, unceasing murmur” (p. 1, l. 1) Dublin is in this sequence presented by a third-person narrator as a very idyllic and romantic city.

But this expectation of a romantic tale, is quickly violated. In the following sequence we are introduced to the two gallants, and there is nothing gallant about either of them. Joyce describes Corley as “squat and ruddy” and with a “large, globular and oily head”– not exactly how one imagine a gallant.Furthermore he seems rude and selfish, because of his constant bragging and his behaviour towards the girl and Lenehan.

Lenahan on the other hand is described as a “leech” but a bit more self-reflective than Corley. Based on his expectations towards others, it would seem as if he has been let down several times, for instance in the end where Corley hasn’t arrived at the appointed hour, Lenehan instantly assume, that Corley has cut him out of the plan. Similarly, Corley only allows Lenehan a distant glimpse of the girl, for the fear of competition.The two gallants both have a constant of being betrayed. The title is obviously ironic, considered the two men’s behaviour during the short story. The two men are anything but gallant and fine men. Instead they exploit the young woman.

Corley has seduced her into giving both her body and some cash in exchange for nothing but a lie. Corley hasn’t even revealed his name for the girl. Neither of the two gallants have a decent job, or the opportunity for advancement. They both live a dissolute life, constantly searching for easy women and money.They don’t have any ambitions. When Lenehan sits in the bar and imagines an alternative to his current lifestyle, his vision is to settle down in some smug and live happily with a simpleminded girl with “a little of the ready”.

But this vision wouldn’t be a change in his exploitative lifestyle. He can aim no higher than to extort the profits of a simpleminded girl for the rest of his life. Out of the two men, Lenehan seems to be the one who wants leave Dublin the most. When the two are walking around in Dublin, there is phrase, which reinforces this.

As the men walked on through the crowd Corley occasionally turned to smile at some of the passing girls but Lenehan’s gaze was fixed on the large faint moon circled with a double halo. ” Corley is still able to enjoy parts of the city. Lenehan on the other hand seems to have seen it all. He is a man on the edge, quite literally, when he is talking with Corley in the beginning, he is walking on the verge of the path. Joyce continues to set up these uncertain expectations, and to surprise the reader, like in the beginning, where the two guys are discussing whether or not Corley can “bring it off” with the girl.

Here you are as a reader still unaware of their real aim with the girl. But the biggest surprise is the break in the narrative structure. The conversation between the two gallants about the forthcoming meeting with the girl, leads the reader to expect a romantic tale, but when Corley leaves Lenehan to see the girl, the focus shifts to Lenehan. As a reader one only sees the result, not the process.

Instead we follow Lenehans aimlessly walk through Dublin, where nothing exciting happens. But maybe this is in fact the real life of an Irish gallant? The relationship between the two gallants seems superficial.On the outside the two would seem as close friends, but based on their conversations, their interest in each other seems false and assumed.

“He spoke without listening to his companions. His conversation was mainly about himself…” Corley is talking and bragging about himself throughout the entire conversation, with Lenehan as his audience. Lenehan keeps answering Corley with a cliche, which reinforces his lack of interest.

And despite their long-term friendship, they still don’t trust each other. They both suspect each other for betrayal in the story.In the end of the story the two men are rewarded with what they desired, the gold coin.

The two gallants have sold out love. They don’t want either love or sex from a girl. Instead they seek a girl who will supply and support them. They are in fact the complete opposite of how one imagines a gallant. “Two Gallants” was both provoking and shocking in the time it was written, the fact that Joyce refused to change any details in the story was partly the reason for the delayed publication of Dubliners[1]. James Joyce has no interest in showing Dublin in a good light.In “Two Gallants” he shows us the reality of young aimless women and men, and nothing is romanticized. His short story seems truly realistic, because of his vivid descriptions of the characters, city and ambiance.

Combined with that, Joyce’s constant naming of exciting streets and corners makes the story even more realistic and hereby even more provoking. I don’t believe that “Two Gallants” is an example of two unique inhabitants of Dublin. To me it seems like the two are just a few among many.

———————– [1] http://www. jstor. org/pss/25486484

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