Study Guide

Two Gallants

by James Joyce

Two Gallants Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Two Gallants” sets up a series of expectations that are violated and reversed at the end of the story. First, the title suggests a world of gallantry, romance, and perhaps a doubling of lovers similar to a Shakespearean comedy. This expectation is reinforced by the narrator’s description of the place and mood:The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles on the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging, unceasing murmur.

There is even a moon shining above them. Also, the conversation of the two main characters, Lenehan and Corley, suggests a romantic involvement. Lenehan calls Corley a “gay Lothario” and wonders if Corley can succeed or “bring it off” with the girl whom he has recently met. However, there are some discordant notes that undercut the romantic mood. Corley has accepted gifts of cigarettes and cigars from the girl rather than giving gifts to her. Lenehan speaks of the romantic code of giving gifts such as flowers and chocolates as a “mug’s game.” Both Corley and Lenehan despise the conventional love game because they do not profit from it. The fictional rules of romantic love do not seem to apply here.

Also, the characters do not seem right for a romantic tale. Corley is described as “squat and ruddy” with a “large, globular and oily” head. Furthermore, his behavior and conversation show him to be rude and a braggart. He brags about his conquests of women and at being in the know at police headquarters. He is the son of a police officer and a “conqueror,” which seems inappropriate for a lover or a patriotic Irishman. In contrast, Lenehan is a hanger-on and a “leech.” His main role seems to be as an audience for Corley’s bragging tales. If Corley talks only...

(The entire section is 784 words.)