How is symbolism used in "A Little Cloud"?

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Little Chandler is the symbol of timidity and piety in the story. He is afraid of everything. Symbols of his timidity surround him and constantly reinforce the idea that he is controlled by his fears. For example, the color white becomes a symbol of his lily-livered, or cowardly, life: he...

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Little Chandler is the symbol of timidity and piety in the story. He is afraid of everything. Symbols of his timidity surround him and constantly reinforce the idea that he is controlled by his fears. For example, the color white becomes a symbol of his lily-livered, or cowardly, life: he has childlike white teeth, white hands, and a white china lamp shade in his home.

Littleness is also a symbol of Chandler: he has little hands, a little house, a little lamp, and a little room, all reflections of his own smallness of spirit. The littleness is summed up in his nickname, Little Chandler. As the text tells us, this is more than simply an expression of his short stature. Though he is slightly shorter than average, there is a quality of smallness about him that people intuit:

he gave one the idea of being a little man.

Little Chandler's smallness of spirit is explicitly tied to Ireland, making Little Chandler a symbol of Ireland's timidity:

Gallaher was only patronizing him by his friendliness just as he was patronizing Ireland by his visit.

Gallaher, who has gone to London and become a success, is a symbol of boldness. The London of Little Chandler's imagination becomes a symbol of Gallaher. It is a "great" city in Little Chandler's mind, as is the Paris Gallaher describes. Both places are filled with the color and passion lacking in Chandler's Dublin life. Yet the more Gallaher pushes him to visit these cities, the more the nervous Chandler pushes them away as "immoral."

Gallagher's shots of "neat" whiskey symbolize his bold spirit, as Chandler's watered whiskeys symbolized his diluted, pale life.

Chandler can never be anything but contemptible--and by implication Ireland can't either--unless it becomes bolder and bigger and stops hiding behind its pieties.

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A Little Cloud” is one of the short stories in James Joyce’s Dublineers. The narrative centers around a day in the life of the protagonist, Little Chandler. Little Chandler has trouble focusing on his office job as he early awaits a post-work meeting with his old friend Ignatius Gallaher. Little Chandler has not seen Gallaher in eight years as Gallaher has been traveling the work through his position as a British journalist. Little Chandler cannot help but feel unimportant through his conversation with Gallaher, and upon returning home, he cannot calm his crying child or convince himself that his wife loves him.

The first symbol in the narrative is the titular cloud, which symbolizes the protagonist. While Little Chandler had high hopes for his life, he is forced to confront the reality that his life is underwhelming and completely ordinary, much like the life of a little cloud is unimpressive and unnoticeable.

Little Chandler and Gallaher are symbols for Ireland and Great Britain, respectively. Gallaher is worldly, accomplished, and impressive, while Little Chandler is paralyzed in a relationship devoid of love. Unable to leave his family, Little Chandler must trudge through each day while Gallaher is able to experience exotic cultures. While Great Britain played a role in increasing globalization, Joyce critiqued Ireland for falling stagnant in their culture.

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Symbolism is used by Joyce to convey the general theme of "A Little Cloud" and the other stories in Dubliners: the restricted, provincial, suffocating nature of Irish life. The title of the story is itself symbolic. Little Chandler, in spite of his elevated ambitions of being a great poet, is just a little cloud in a much larger sky. He desperately wants to escape the stultifying boredom of his workaday existence but lacks the courage or ability to do so. So he floats along in life like a cloud, barely registering any kind of presence against the sky's expanse. A cloud can also symbolize the dreamy, hazy fantasy world that Chandler inhabits. His dreams of being a poet are precisely that; his head is permanently stuck in the clouds, unable to connect with the world around him.

Gallaher is also a symbolic figure, but at the same time incredibly real. In fact, he is considerably more real than Little Chandler. He is much more worldly, for one thing. Unlike his friend, Gallaher is actually living the dream, working as a successful journalist in London. He symbolizes the life that Chandler could have had if only he had the courage to take a chance and break free from Ireland.

Chandler's family could reasonably be seen as symbolic of Ireland at the time Joyce wrote the story. Home life is not a source of loving warmth for Chandler; it is a place of boredom, restriction, and lack of fulfillment. And the traditional Irish romanticizing of hearth and home has no appeal for Joyce, either. His eyes are firmly set upon being a great European writer, an artist of universal renown.

Chandler's poetry books gather dust on the shelf, unread, unloved, unappreciated. He wanted to read them to his wife, but he was always too shy to do so. Joyce too feels unappreciated by his fellow countrymen. But he is not too shy to bring his work to their critical attention. It is just that they would not understand it. His literary vision—so ambitious, so European, so un-Irish—is wasted on them.

The howls of derision and incomprehension that so often accompanied the reception of Joyce's work in Ireland are symbolically prefigured in the persistent bawling of Chandler's baby son. The child is too young to understand Chandler's poetic ambitions. And Ireland is too immature, too culturally insular, to appreciate the unique literary vision of James Joyce.

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