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by James Joyce

Dubliners Ivy Day in the Committee Room Summary

  • The committee room isn't hopping when the story begins. Old Jack's just tending to the fire with a piece of cardboard, like you do. 
  • Mr O'Connor rolls and unrolls tobacco for a cigarette after Old Jack gets a good blaze going.
  • O'Connor works for Richard Tierney, a candidate in the city elections, and his job is to walk around the district drumming up votes.
  • Bu today it's cold and wet outside, so he's stuck inside. 
  • Old Jack complains about his son, who's a drunk despite his father's best efforts to "make him someway decent" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.11). 
  • Kids these days. As expected, disciplining children dominates the convo between Mr O'Connor and Old Jack, and he talks about trying to force his son to get a job only to find that he spent all of his salary on—you guessed it—alcohol. 
  • Hynes joins the group and asks if O'Connor has been paid yet. This leads to a discussion of Mr Tierney's character, and whether he's better than his opponent, Colgan. 
  • Quick note: Since Colgan is pretty down-to-earth and blue collar, and Tierney's a career politician, Hynes defends the rights of working-people to be involved in government. He scorns politicians like Tierney: "This fellow you're working for only wants to get some job or other" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.42). Yep, things are getting political.
  • Things get a little confusing here because Hynes starts talking politics, but hang in there because it makes sense—we promise. Hynes says that "the working-man" is less likely to betray Ireland to England and its "German monarch." (The deal is that Edward VII, the King of England at the time, was related to the German king, and calling him German is a pretty nasty insult.) (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.44). 
  • Mr O'Connor has to defend his boss, Tierney. He won't welcome Edward VII, either, he says. But let's be honest, Mr O'Connor isn't happy about not getting his paycheck. 
  • Hynes shows Mr O'Connor and Old Jack the piece of ivy pinned to his jacket. No, this isn't the newest cool style from Ireland Apparel. It's a symbol of Charles Parnell, the Irish Nationalist politician who was a hero until an adultery scandal turned his fame to notoriety. 
  • Here's the run down on "Ivy Day": it took place every year on October 6th, the date of Parnell's death in 1891. Anyone who wears an ivy leaf says he's a fan of Parnell's. 
  • If only Parnell were alive, there wouldn't be any risk of Edward VII being welcome to Ireland. At least that's what Old Jack and Mr O'Connor think.
  • The bearer of bad news is Mr Henchy: nobody's getting paid yet. 
  • Henchy gripes to Tierney for not paying him, and calls him "Tricky Dicky Tierney" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.48). He remembers that Tierney's father was just a humble tailor.
    Hynes leaves.
  • Henchy tells O'Connor that he thinks Hynes is a spy for Colgan, the opponent in the election. Old Jack agrees, but O'Connor defends Hynes, referencing something he had written. Henchy interrupts to suggest that a lot of the so-called "hillsiders and Fenians," or Irish nationalists, are actually spies for England (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.91). They discuss those who betray Ireland for a little bit of recognition from England. 
  • A "poor clergyman or a poor actor" shows up looking for someone named Fanning (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.98). He leaves and the guys say he's sort of "a black sheep" of a priest, and it's a mystery how he makes ends meet (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.117). What's with all the strange priests in Dubliners?
  • Next up for discussion: how to get "a dozen of stout" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.124). Almost on cue, a messenger boy shows up with some. They don't have cups or a corkscrew to open the bottles, but that's not stopping anybody from a good long drink. 
  • Once everyone—including the messenger boy—has a bottle—Henchy explains that he's convinced at least one or two people to vote for Tierney during the day. 
  • It's back to politics for the group. 
  • Crofton comes in just after Henchy bad-mouths him as a bad worker who just "stands and looks at the people while I do the talking" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.155). Um, awkward. Crofton's heavy-set, and comes with a younger man named Lyons, who's pretty interested in the stout. 
  • Crofton thinks he's better than everybody else just because he started out working for the Conservative party's candidate. His candidate lost and he ended up with Tierney. 
  • Henchy brags about winning votes for his boss. His shtick is to claim that Tierney "doesn't belong to any party, good, bad, or indifferent." (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.171). 
  • Then he goes back to the whole Edward VII issue. Basically, he's being practical and thinks it's totally fine to welcome the foreign king because it'll bring factories and jobs, and "the citizens of Dublin will benefit from it" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.173). 
  • O'Connor's less practical, and much more emotional. Parnell, he says, would never "welcome the King of England."
  • Henchy cuts him off, though. Your argument doesn't matter because "Parnell is dead." Besides, Edward VII isn't all that controversial a guy. 
  • Crofton seconds that emotion.
  • Lyons compares Parnell to Edward VII, saying that both of them are unfit leaders. 
  • Whoa, there. Don't say that to O'Connor, especially on Ivy Day. He says they should show some respect since "we all respect him now that he's dead and gone—even the Conservatives" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.182). 
  • Crofton and Henchy admit that they support Parnell because he was "a gentleman" and kept the English at bay. Hynes returns (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.184). 
  • Hynes keeps quiet as everyone praises his loyalty to Parnell. 
  • O'Connor asks him if he will read "that thing you wrote—do you remember?" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.193). 
  • Hynes stumbles a little and says that the piece is "old now." He hesitates, but after a pause begins reading a poem titled, "The Death of Parnell" (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.197). 
  • The poem is an elegy for Parnell. Here's what it's talking about: 
  • "Coward hounds" are responsible for Parnell's death (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.202). 
  • Ireland—which is called by its Celtic name, Erin—has lost its "hopes" and "dreams" as a result of Parnell's death (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.202)
  • Anyone who would "smear th' exalted name" of Parnell gets a curse (Ivy Day in the Committee Room.208).
  • Ireland may rise again. If it does, it should never forget that Parnell had to die for this to happen. 
  • After he finishes reading, everyone applauds, but Hynes seems totally out of it, and doesn't drink the toast. 
  • Mr O'Connor is particularly emotional; Mr Crofton is particularly unemotional.

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