At the crest of the hill at Inchicore sightseers had gathered in clumps to watch the cars careering homeward and through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry. Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed.
“After the Race” begins during an international automobile race running through Dublin. Although this event takes place on Irish soil, the racers come from elsewhere in Europe, and the Irish root for the French because they will not root for the British. The narrator contrasts the speeding luxury race cars with the backwards, impoverished streets. Readers can infer that the wealthy automobile racers treat Ireland like a colonial backwater they can use for their own purposes—and that the Irish populace feels happy to have them do so.
Ignatius Gallaher laughed. “The Isle of Man!” he said. “Go to London or Paris: Paris, for choice. That’d do you good.”
In “A Little Cloud,” a staid, timid clerk named Little Chandler meets up with an old friend, Gallaher, who moved away from Dublin and became a successful London journalist. Gallaher here reacts with scorn to Little Chandler’s experience of travel being limited to an island off the coast of Ireland that is the closest foreign soil to Dublin. Gallaher seems unimpressed with what Little Chandler has done with his life and challenges him to broaden his horizons.
She asked him why he did not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her, with careful scorn . . . To submit himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impressarios?
In “A Painful Case,” the narrator describes one of the many platonic meetings between an intellectual bachelor and a married matron. Mr. Duffy had held forth on his political theories, and Mrs. Sinico has complimented him by urging him to publish. Mr. Duffy’s response reveals that he views most of his fellow Irishmen as ignorant. Their idea of entertainment doesn’t include classical music, which he and Mrs. Sinico both love, but rather music-hall performances. He disdains his fellow Irishmen’s preoccupation with pragmatic mundanities rather than world-changing ideas—he supports a Socialist revolution. He explains he doesn’t write because he believes people could never understand his refined ideas. Then again, he does nothing else either, avoiding relationships of all kinds. His refined existence contains very little actual life.
“Oh, well . . . I presume there are as good singers today as there were then . . . In London, Paris, Milan,” Said Mr. Bartell D’Arcy warmly. “I suppose Caruso, for example, is quite as good, if not better than any of the men you have mentioned.”
In “The Dead,” party guests reminisce about the great singers of the past. Mr. Browne asserts that current singers lack the old singers’ talent, a reason why the great operas no longer run. Mr. Bartell D’Arcy, himself a singer, points out that singers have not actually become less talented and offers as a case in point Caruso, one of the most famous opera singers to this day. Instead, he says, the great singers simply perform elsewhere. Dublin no longer functions as a site for such performances, either due to a lack of interest, or because performers would rather be in larger cities.