In "Two Gallants," the sixth short story in the Dubliners collection, James Joyce is especially careful and crafty in his opening paragraph. Even the most cursory of readings exposes repetition, alliteration, and a clear structure within just these nine lines. The question remains, though, as to what the beginning of "Two Gallants" contributes to the meaning and impact of Joyce's work, both for the isolated story itself and for Dubliners as a whole. The construction, style, and word choice of this opening, in the context of the story and the collection, all point to one of Joyce's most prevalent implicit judgments: that the people of Ireland refuse to make any effort toward positive change for themselves.
(1)The grey warm evening of August had descended
(2)upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of
(3)summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered
(4)for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured
(5)crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the
(6)summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below
(7)which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up
(8)into the warm grey evening air an unchanging un-
(9)ceasing murmur. (p. 59)
The opening paragraph of this story is a microcosm, in terms of structure, of the larger construction of "Two Gallants:" both are clearly circular in style, beginning and ending with similar references and stylistic devices. The most explicit hint of the story's structure is the use of the word "circulated" (line 3), but Joyce offers concrete evidence in the opening as well. He begins with a reference to "the grey warm evening" (line 1) and includes in the final sentence the phrase "the warm grey evening" (line 8). ...
... middle of paper ...
...on page 64, say,
Yet still in her darkness doth Erin lie sleeping,
Still doth the pure light its dawning delay.
Joyce attempts in "Two Gallants" and the other stories in Dubliners to begin the "dawning" process -- a move away from static "paralysis" toward a sense of collective agency for positive change -- but is limited to the finite role of lighting metaphorical lamps. However bright and pointed his light is, he still must depend on the people of Ireland, in whom he has little or no faith, to fight for the change he says they so desperately need.
1 from Gifford, Don. Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, page 59.
All other citations from Joyce, James. The Portable James Joyce, ed. Harry Levin. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
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