28 pages 56 minutes read

James Joyce

Two Gallants

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1914

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Suspicion and Betrayal

The theme of betrayal in “Two Gallants” corresponds with Joyce’s critique of the condition of Ireland. Throughout the story, Joyce presents Dublin as a society that has been exploited by British colonialism and politically let down by its nationalist leader, Charles Parnell. Within this environment, the story’s main characters routinely engage in deceit and betrayal even as they complain about the disloyalty of others. Corley and Lenehan’s experiences are depicted as micro-level representations of the challenges that Ireland experienced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The narrative demonstrates how a lack of trust detracts from Dublin’s cultural, economic, and political well-being.

Joyce’s depiction of the narrative’s two main characters connects the figures to their respective histories of deceiving and manipulating others. Corley and Lenehan act out of their distrust of others, particularly women, as they plan and engage in nefarious acts. Corley’s tale at the beginning of the story describes how he engaged in a romantic conquest and used a woman for his own purposes. Hints that Lenehan’s enthusiastic response to this story may be feigned suggest an intention to manipulate Corley toward his own ends. The characters’ early interactions thus demonstrate that the duo both collaborate and work at cross-purposes as they each plan their individual schemes.