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Just one of the many short stories compiled in James Joyce’s Dubliners, “After the Race” is an effective portrayal of the shame and misfortune that result from Jimmy Doyle’s efforts to become accepted by a wealthy group of men. His constant desire to present himself as an aristocrat, one who is consistently in the company of elitist individuals, undermines his ability to reason and make sound judgments. This weakness is exemplified principally by his reckless gambling and drunken speech. Jimmy’s obsession with advancing his social status leads to his demise as he ultimately finds himself in a state of desolation and poverty. The infidelity of Jimmy’s so-called friends further accentuates the malevolence of greed as the Frenchmen seem to accept Jimmy simply because of his investment in the motor establishment.
The success of Jimmy’s father promotes Jimmy’s desire to advance his own social status as much as it highlights Jimmy’s inherent naivety. Sharing his father’s principles, Jimmy comes to believe that being in the company of affluent Frenchmen will be quite advantageous and, to a certain degree, stimulating. Although the men are simply “acquaintances” (43) of Jimmy, he seems to find “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” (43). Jimmy’s criteria for choosing companions is strictly based on socioeconomic position, effectively alluding to his superficial character. Furthermore, Jimmy does not focus his energies on significant matters such as education as he “did not study very earnestly and took to bad courses” (43) but rather concentrates on presenting a seemingly noble image to the general public. Jimmy’s concerns seem to be chiefly centered on whom he is seen with in public, further elucidating his insecurities and self-doubt.
The Frenchmen do not display a genuine liking towards Jimmy but rather a strong sense of apathy towards him. Jimmy is “too excited to be genuinely happy” riding in the blue car as he unsurprisingly feels somewhat unwelcome. As an uninvited guest, Jimmy rides in the blue car and often has “to strain forward to catch the quick phrase” (44) in order to hear the “light words” (44) of the Frenchmen. Jimmy’s membership in the exclusive group is actually disingenuous, and the men simply tolerate Jimmy because he made a significant investment in Segouin’s motor establishment. Furthermore, Jimmy’s choice to deliver a speech, though well-received by his companions, emphasizes his foolishness and disillusionment. Jimmy “must have [delivered] a good speech” (47-48), but he, in fact, cannot even recall the topic on which he spoke as he is so miserably drunk. Jimmy’s disgraceful condition further contributes to his portrayal as a foolish and drunk individual attempting to impress his ‘audience’ and gain approval.
Jimmy ultimately realizes the futility of his situation but simply ignores it. Having drunk a substantial amount, Jimmy is unable to sensibly engage in a game of cards. However, he refuses to let his condition stop him from gambling and eventually “knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest” (48). Though Jimmy has lost a great sum of money, he attempts to cover up the situation and ignore it, essentially denying the inevitability of shame in his eternal quest for wealth and acceptance. The irony inherent in the situation, however, occurs when Jimmy loses all of his money. Hoping for a “dark stupor that would cover up his folly” (48), Jimmy finishes the game promptly at daybreak, allowing for no time to mourn and grieve over his heavy losses. Though Jimmy consistently finds himself in a state of hopelessness and despair, he continuously ignores the harsh reality of the innate regret and misfortune that result.
Jimmy’s father changes his political views with the sole interest of accumulating more wealth. To him and Jimmy alike, integrity can be sacrificed for wealth. Such is the case for Jimmy’s father who “had begun life as an advanced Nationalist” (43) but “had modified his views early” (43) in order to open shops in Dublin and make a fortune. Jimmy’s father also proves to sacrifice his Irish nationalism in securing police contracts supporting the British, displaying far greater concern for his own self-interests than the wellbeing of the state. This egoism is not confined strictly to Jimmy’s father but is also exhibited by Jimmy, thus portraying the materialism and superficiality exemplified by the Doyle family.
As unfortunate as Jimmy Doyle’s demise is, he must be criticized for his self-centered and naive character as his disillusionment of befriending wealthy people propels him into a state of shame and poverty. “After the Race” is an effective portrayal of the consequences of greed and excessive ambition.
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