He was called Little Chandler because, though he was but slightly under the average stature, he gave one the idea of being a little man. His hands were white and small, his frame was fragile, his voice was quiet and his manner was refined. He took the greatest care of his fair silken hair and moustache and used perfume discreetly on his handkerchief.
The narrator from “A Little Cloud” describes how Little Chandler got his name. His build and his features bespeak a physical fragility that extends to his personality. His careful grooming of his hair and mustache indicate a precarious sense of self-worth. His reserved manner of speaking and unobtrusive use of cologne characterize a person intent on escaping notice and indicate a guarded insecurity. As he meets with a long-absent friend, however, his fragile self-confidence will begin to be questioned and tested.
It was his habit to walk swiftly in the street even by day and whenever he found himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way apprehensively and excitedly. Sometimes, however, he courted the causes of his fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets and, as he walked boldly forward, the silence that was spread about his footsteps troubled him[.]
The narrator reveals that while Little Chandler often feels timid, he challenges his own timidity. Recognizing his own fears, he puts his bravery to the test. He seems to have flashes of wanting to be a different, more exciting or braver person, but he performs these exercises of bravery without expecting them to lead to any change in his true nature.
Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy. If he could give expression to it in a book of poems perhaps men would listen. He would never be popular: he saw that. He could not sway the crowd but he might appeal to a little circle of kindred minds.
Little Chandler reflects on his temperament. While he doesn’t view himself as heroic or great, he does believe that he possesses a special poetic ability. He believes that some people might appreciate what he could make of that talent. He has given both his personality and his talent level a lot of careful thought—but so far he has not done anything to bring his gift to the real world.
He felt acutely the contrast between his own life and his friend’s, and it seemed to him unjust. Gallaher was his inferior in birth and education. He was sure that he could do something higher than mere tawdry journalism if only he got the chance. What was it that stood in his way? His unfortunate timidity! He wished to vindicate himself in some way, to assert his manhood.
After meeting with Gallaher, his old friend who became a successful London journalist, Little Chandler feels jealousy while simultaneously feeling superior. Until this evening, Little Chandler felt fairly satisfied with his life, but Gallaher’s charismatic presence and belittling comments tilt Little Chandler into dissatisfaction and misery. Little Chandler’s combination of self-confidence and timidity prove to be no match for Gallaher’s brash self-assertion and worldliness.
A dull resentment against his life awoke within him. Could he not escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to live bravely like Gallaher? Could he go to London? There was the furniture still to be paid for. If he could only write a book and get it published, that might open the way for him.
After Gallaher asserts the foolishness of marrying for any reason besides money, Little Chandler, now viewing his life through the lens of Gallaher’s opinion, begins to resent the family he had been proud of. While he longs to be more like Gallaher, the fact that he worries about paying off the furniture before running away indicates that fundamentally he still cares about societal expectations and will never escape.