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The story has two main characters namely Thomas Chandler and Ignatius Gallaher. Thomas Chandler is mainly referred to as ‘Little Chandler’ in this story. These two are old time friends and they parted years eight years ago when Little Chandler saw his friend Ignatius Gallagher off at the North Wall, he went off to London, whence he became a great journalist. They have a rendez vouz that night and in lieu of this Little Chandler is growing really excited (Ruof, 269). However, Little Chandler is a little bit shy and doesn’t know what to expect at this meeting with his old time friend! Two other characters are also mentioned in this story and these are Little Chandler’s wife and child. These two have played an important role in the shaping of Little Chandler’s life, of which he is not proud of. He keeps on envying Ignatius Gallaher’s lifestyle.
He is called ‘Little Chandler but he has a more or less average height because he gives the impression of being small and childlike. His small white hands and his fragile frame coupled to his voice that was quiet and his manners were refined gave him a childish impression too. He is aged about just over 30 years old. At his work place at King’s Inn, Little Chandler awaits. He sometimes works as either a scrivener or clerk, thinking of the people outside the office window and the miseries of life. Little Chandler thinks of the numerous collections of books of poetry on his shelves; which he bought and collected while in his bachelor days. Now and then he is captured by the longing to read something from his collection to his wife, but his shyness prevents him from doing so, therefore he keeps to himself and the idea goes away. Little Chandler has vague dreams of becoming a renowned a poet, but this cannot be achieved due his imprisonment in Ireland, mainly mental imprisonment.
This character Gallagher is not as Little Chandler expected him to be, actually he was wary of what to expect totally from Gallaher. This is depicted in the way Little Chandler enters Corless', the meeting point. He is scared of being noticed but when he spots Gallaher, Gallaher is exactly a charming figure (Tindall, 12). He seems to delight in scaring Little Chandler, and he is rather casual in the way he treats his old time friend, Little Chandler. His big shift to London has enabled his career to propel further than it would have had he remained in Dublin. He now works at a press station and he complains of the stresses of press print that take a toll on his life, making him appear older than he really is, making Little Chandler very envious of his lifestyle. Gallaher takes life very simply.
Annie, Little Chandler’s wife
She has proven to be the core of the family. Once when she left her husband Little Chandler with their tiny baby to do out to the shops, Little Chandler could not hush the baby when s he started crying. This made him to snap at the baby and thereby making the baby to scream even more loudly. However, when Little Chandler’s wife came back and hurriedly entered the house to find the baby crying, she was cross with her husband and immediately demanded an explanation of what had happened. When the baby heard her mother’s voice, his loud screams and outbursts suddenly turned into sobs and decreased. This made Little Chandler fell useless in his child’s life.
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Little Chandler describes entering into a marriage as ‘putting your head into a sack’, hence he is confined and immobilized due to the fact that he is married to his wife and thus his movements are limited. He tells Gallaher that that is the reason he has not travelled far and wide like him, but once Gallaher gets married and settles down, his travel movements will also be restricted.
Little Chandler’s child
Little Chandler’s also plays a role in Chandler's immobilization in that, in striving to soothe the child to sleep, he can hardly be able to hold the book in order to read his comforting poetry and also to hold the child at the same time. There is evidence of his incapacitation.
The 1882-born author of this short story, James Joyce, was the son of a horticulturalist in Dublin. He however attended the best boys’ schools and colleges in England and ends up writing about Ireland. Dublin is the primate capital city of The Republic of Ireland while London is the capital city of England. The author has experience of both worlds, Ireland and England and thus puts these experiences into ink. We can deduce that eight years are sufficient for one to go through school and college and get into a career. Hence the Little Chandler is the author’s old self while in Ireland. Little Chandler’s life is mostly revolved around Ireland, and this can be adduced by the surroundings he is in.
The confinement of Little Chandler has been exposed to are more than geographical The constant stresses of life are on him and family matters are no less a worry. The lack of travelling on Little Chandlers part can be attributed to the fact that Ireland is indeed an island and transport across can prove very difficult as compared to mainland transport (Murfin, 21). The farthest that Little Chandler has gone is the Isle of Mann, otherwise known simply as located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. However, as Gallaher has said, he has travelled far and wide including Paris and the Moulin rouge therein.
Little Chandler had dreams of publishing his own poetry works in England and in the process gain recognition as one good writer from ‘The Celtic twilight poetry’ did not materialize due to the numerous imprisonments that have trapped him. Basically, Little Chandler pegs the success of his friend Gallaher to leaving Ireland for England, and while he stayed back in Ireland, he has made no progress at all. Little Chandler therefore has indistinct aspirations of publishing his own poetry, but as he discovers. Ignatius Gallaher is not of any help in assisting him (Cuddon, 44).
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The setting up of the Little Chandler may be considered to be more than the general geographical. Joyce portrays Ireland as some structure that creates a mental prison for him. Chandler may be seen to be a down hearted character with ambition of looking for recognition as evident from what Celtic school makes known of him. He is considered a clichéd and unsophisticated poet. The Celtic twilight poetry mostly served the English stereotypes. The associated misconception of the poetry has led to the perception of the work as being tritely low and capricious poetry with questionable and doubted quality. Joyce is reported to have had disapproval of their kind of writing and this will possibly go down to support the argument fronted on the quality of work.
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