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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 594

Thomas Malone Chandler, known as “Little Chandler” because of his boyish appearance and delicate manner, works as a legal clerk. On this particular fall evening, he has an appointment with an old friend named Ignatius Gallaher. After eight years abroad, during which time he has become a self-confident and successful...

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Thomas Malone Chandler, known as “Little Chandler” because of his boyish appearance and delicate manner, works as a legal clerk. On this particular fall evening, he has an appointment with an old friend named Ignatius Gallaher. After eight years abroad, during which time he has become a self-confident and successful journalist, Gallaher has returned to visit his native Dublin.

The prospect of an evening with Gallaher arouses certain conflicts in Little Chandler. On one hand, he is proud to have a talented and successful friend; on the other hand, he is reminded of the drudgery of his own work, which he associates with the drabness of his native city. When such melancholy moods strike him, he thinks of the books of poetry that he bought before his marriage. Remembering some of their lines, he is often consoled.

When his work day ends, he sets out for his appointment. His anticipation of the evening out causes him to ignore the squalor of the city slums. His rendezvous with Gallaher is to be at Corless’s, a fashionable restaurant patronized by the upper classes. He has always viewed their lives from a distance, with envy and apprehension. However, thoughts of Gallaher’s dash, talent, and resources buoy him up and make him feel equal to the occasion. He reflects that the contrast between the brilliance of Gallaher’s career and his own prosaic job is explained by the lack of opportunity in Dublin.

He considers himself a poet of moods, now perhaps reaching emotional maturity. His melancholic temperament, he believes, would be seen by outsiders as typical of the work of the Celtic Twilight, the Irish literary movement led by William Butler Yeats. He conjectures that Gallaher may be able to advise him on publication strategies.

In Corless’s bar, Gallaher greets him jovially, joking about the signs of his approaching middle age. As they order drinks and reminisce, however, Chandler begins to recognize Gallaher’s crude and patronizing manner as he boasts of the pressures and prestige of his job, his adventures in “immoral” Paris, his taste for neat whiskey, and his acquaintance with the corruption of the religious orders and the aristocracy of the Continent.

Then Little Chandler tells Gallaher of his marriage and baby son and invites him to visit. Gallaher declines, however, and as they drink their final whiskeys, Chandler’s resentment against his own humble life and Gallaher’s condescension begins to grow stronger. Emboldened by the effects of the alcohol, he predicts Gallaher’s own marriage. Gallaher insists that he is liberated from all romantic illusions about women: He is too worldly-wise for that.

When Little Chandler gets home late for tea, he has an argument with his wife. She goes out on an errand, leaving him in charge of their sleeping infant. As he awaits her return, he reflects on their dull marriage, his timidity, and his mean and domineering wife. From these doleful reflections on his domestication, he turns again to thoughts of poetry. However, when he opens his volume of Lord Byron’s poems, the first verse that he reads sends him into another melancholic reverie.

This is broken by his child, who wakes and begins to cry. As he tries to read while rocking the child, a resentment against all the circumstances of his life wells up in him. He shouts at the child, driving it into hysterics. His wife rushes in on the scene, snatches the child from him, and soothes it. Little Chandler stands by, helpless before her hatred and conscience-stricken by his outburst.

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