Study Guide

Dubliners A Little Cloud

By James Joyce

A Little Cloud

  • Little Chandler's friend, Gallaher, left Dublin eight years ago for London, and has since made a successful career for himself as a journalist. 
  • But tonight's a big night. Gallaher's coming back for a visit and wants to see Little Chandler.
  • And let's be clear about one thing: Little Chandler isn't really all that little. He's just well-groomed and sort of dainty: "His hands were white and small, his frame was fragile, his voice was quiet and his manners were refined" (A Little Cloud.2). 
  • Little Chandler works as a copyist in Dublin, and as he thinks about Gallaher, and then, in contrast, about the scene outside his window, "he became sad." 
  • Why so sad, LC? Well, he's too shy to read poetry to his wife, and too smart to think there's any way to change his life: "He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him" (A Little Cloud.3). Yikes
  • Chandler walks from work to a bar called Corless's where he'll meet Gallaher. Mood's a little better by now. 
  • It doesn't hurt that Corless's is a swanky joint. And Little Chandler's never been before. 
  • Chandler thinks how unexpected it is that his friend has been so successful, because apparently the whole reason he left Dublin in the first place was because of a scandal of some sort involving money. But at the same time, "There was always a certain something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of yourself." (A Little Cloud.7) 
  • In fact, just to be associated with Gallaher makes Chandler proud. Then he gets it: getting out of Dublin is the only way to succeed. Maybe Gallaher will do him a favor? 
  • Walking toward the meeting makes him feel like he's walking to London, and walking away "from his own sober inartistic life" (A Little Cloud.11).
  • But the facts of his life aren't so bad. He's 32, which is the perfect age to write down the "many different moods and impressions" that fill him, sometimes with a "melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy" (A Little Cloud.11). A guy needs to daydream every once in a while, right? 
  • Keep your head in the game, though, buddy. He's so busy daydreaming that he misses his turn. When he gets to Corless's, Gallaher's waiting for him at the bar. 
  • Whisky's the drink of the night, but Chandler takes it with a lot of water. The two catch up about old friends, and Chandler's scathing remark about a friend who's not doing well reminds Gallaher that Chandler has always been the serious one. 
  • Gallaher tells Chandler to live a little bit, that he travel abroad rather than just to the Isle of Man, which is off the east coast of Ireland. But Gallaher doesn't travel, as Chandler would, to see something "beautiful;" he travels to see "gaiety, movement, excitement," the kind that you find at a burlesque show at the Moulin Rouge (A Little Cloud.37). 
  • Chandler's upset by Gallaher's way of talking, which he finds "vulgar" and different from eight years ago (A Little Cloud.40). Still, he's envious of him. 
  • They discuss the immorality of cities, because aren't cities just the worst? And even though Chandler is a little worried about all the immorality, he agrees to another drink. He's on his third now, so who you callin' immoral, bud?
  • Gallaher goes on about "the vices of many capitals." As we might have expected, "Chandler was astonished" (A Little Cloud.56). He wonders why his friend is in Dublin at all, since it must seem so "dull" by comparison (A Little Cloud.58). 
  • Gallaher mentions that Chandler is married, and we learn that it's been about two years, and that he has a young son. Gallaher declines Chandler's invitation to come to his house by saying he has lots of other people to see, and it's a little awkward. 
  • This time, Chandler pushes for them to have one last drink. Chandler's a little drunk because his tolerance is pretty low, his being a family man and all. 
  • But the whole experience has put him in a different mindset: "He felt acutely the contrast between his own life and his friend's, and it seemed to him unjust" (A Little Cloud.87). Chandler knows that Gallaher declined his invitation because he sees Chandler as inferior, and sees all of Ireland as inferior, too. This whole reunion is not going so well.
  • Chandler bets Gallaher will get married one day, which isn't cool with G-man, who believes he can marry rich anytime he wants. "You wait a while, my boy.
  • See if I don't play my cards properly." (A Little Cloud.99). Um, we don't know if you're just getting this now, but this dude is kind of a jerk.
  • Gallaher insults Chandler for "tying [himself] up to one woman," which Gallaher imagines "must get a bit stale" (A Little Cloud.101, 103). 
  • Back at Chandler's pad, he's holding his baby, and he's in the doghouse with his wife, Annie, for getting home so late. 
  • Since Chandler dropped the ball on getting groceries, Annie has to go out late and get them, leaving him at home with the kiddo.
  • Chandler checks out a pic of Annie wearing a dress he had bought her, and he remembers the "agony of nervousness" that buying it had caused him (A Little Cloud.106). 
  • Now, though, he sees something in his wife's eyes that "repelled him and defied him" because they had "no passion in them" like the eyes of the "dark Oriental" women Gallaher had described abroad (A Little Cloud.108). Yikes.
  • He looks around the room and hates the furniture Annie bought for the place, and it makes him resent his whole life. "Could he not escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to try to live bravely like Gallaher?" (A Little Cloud.109). This dude needs a vacation.
  • Chandler picks up an open book of poems by the 19th-century British poet Lord Byron, and reads a sad poem (the poet's sister had just died). Man, he wishes he could write like that! "There were so many things he wanted to describe." (A Little Cloud.111). 
  • The little baby wakes up crying, and won't stop. Chandler's really impatient, and he yells "Stop!" at the child, who begins to scream and "sob convulsively" (A Little Cloud.103-105).
  • It's really bad timing, because right at this moment, Annie comes home, and she's so angry that she looks at Chandler with "hatred." She goes off with the child. 
  • Chandler feels so ashamed that he starts to cry like a baby.