‘After the Race’: A Summary of the James Joyce Short Story

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

What follows is a short plot summary of James Joyce’s story ‘After the Race’, which was published in his 1914 collection of short stories, Dubliners. Before proceeding to the summary below, you might wish to read ‘After the Race’ here.

To summarise the story, then: in Dublin, a crowd of people watch as the drivers of motorcars finish their race. The Dubliners are cheering those in the blue cars, who are their friends. In one of the cars are four friends together: two Frenchmen, a Hungarian, and a local youth named Jimmy Doyle, who has been educated in England:

In one of these trimly built cars was a party of four young men whose spirits seemed to be at present well above the level of successful Gallicism: in fact, these four young men were almost hilarious. They were Charles Ségouin, the owner of the car; André Rivière, a young electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named Villona and a neatly groomed young man named Doyle.

Doyle, spurred on by his father who is convinced there is money to be made from cars, has invested money in the motoring business one of the Frenchmen, Ségouin, has set up. He is trebling exhilarated: by the thrill of travelling at great speed during the race; by being notorious as a member of the racing team; and by having money.

After the race is over, Jimmy and his Hungarian friend, Villona, walk through Dublin to Jimmy’s parents’ house, to get dressed ready for dinner at the hotel where Ségouin (by far the wealthiest of the friends) is staying. They have a very fine dinner there, for which they are joined by an Englishman named Routh, and talk about everything from madrigals to French mechanical prowess.

Then the talk turns to politics, about which they have a heated debate. They then stroll through the city at night, smoking. The other Frenchman, André Rivière, is recognised by a fat American named Farley, and everyone starts chattering noisily.

They then get in a car and drive to the railway station, and get a train to Kingstown (the harbour some 7-8 miles south of Dublin city centre). Once they arrive at the harbour and get off the train, they walk arm-in-arm through the streets, singing the ‘Cadet Roussel’ (a French marching song dating from the French Revolution).

They get into a rowboat and head out across the water to Farley’s yacht. Villona plays a waltz on the piano so Farley and Rivière can dance, with Farley leading and Rivière taking he lady’s position in the dance. They then have supper and have quite a few drinks, and Jimmy makes a speech. They then play cards while Villona plays the piano, and they drink some more. Along with Farley (who’s clearly far more wealthy), Jimmy loses the most at the card table.

Jimmy knows he will regret being so reckless with his money tomorrow, but right now he’s glad that he’s drunk because it numbs the feeling of regret. However, Villona then opens the cabin door and announces that the next day is already here: they’ve been drinking and playing cards all night.

That’s a short summary of the ‘plot’ of ‘After the Race’, if we can describe the story as having a plot as such. We’ll put together some notes towards an analysis of the story for Thursday.

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