After the Race


James Joyce

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After the Race Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on James Joyce's After the Race. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of James Joyce

James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882 in Dublin, Ireland to a Catholic family. Joyce’s parents, May and John Joyce, went on to have nine more surviving children, making James the eldest child of the family. Although John Joyce was able to temporarily secure prosperity for the Joyce family, he later dragged them into poverty after he was dismissed from his job in 1893 and started drinking heavily. James Joyce attended the University College Dublin from 1898 to 1902, during which time he became involved in the local literary society. Upon his graduation, he went to Paris to study medicine, but he quickly abandoned this endeavor and began developing his writing style. In 1904, Joyce was called back to Dublin to care for his dying mother, who passed away in August of that year. While back in Dublin, Joyce met his future wife, Nora Barnacle, and the two left Ireland a few months after Joyce’s mother died. Disappointed with his home country, he would only ever return to Ireland for a handful of visits for the rest of his lifetime. Joyce and his wife settled in Trieste, a city in what is now Italy, where he supported their growing family by teaching English, and where the couple had two children: Giorgio and Lucia. At this time, he had already been working on Dubliners, but he would not have the satisfaction of seeing it published until 1914. After World War I broke out, Joyce moved to Zurich and then later to Paris, where he published his masterpiece Ulysses in 1922. Having now gained a considerable amount of fame as a modernist writer, Joyce attracted the attention and patronage of English activist Harriet Shaw Weaver, whose financial support allowed Joyce to fully dedicate himself to writing. Joyce escaped Paris and its Nazi occupation in 1940. He fled to Zurich where he died from a perforated ulcer on January 13, 1941.
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Historical Context of After the Race

“After the Race” was written when the idea of Irish Home Rule was hotly debated in the country. Ireland had long been governed by England and, at the beginning of the 20th century, was considered part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Ireland endured exploitation at the hands of the British, which left the country impoverished. The city of Dublin especially experienced this poverty; in contrast to the more affluent southern side of the city, northern Dublin was riddled with crowded slums in horribly unsanitary conditions. One of the most notable Irish politicians of this time was Charles Stewart Parnell, who turned the Irish Parliamentary Party (who advocated for Irish Home Rule) into a major party. He was a Member of Parliament from 1875 to 1891, but his career was effectively destroyed in 1889, when it was revealed to the public that he had been living with the separated wife of another politician. This fall-out split the Liberal Party, who had adopted the policy of Irish Home Rule, and momentarily thwarted the effort. The 19th century and early 20th century were also marked by the Industrial Revolution and globalized trade, both of which strengthened and bolstered the middle class of working professionals. The characters Jimmy Doyle and Jimmy’s father are part of this wealthy class.

Other Books Related to After the Race

“After the Race” is one of fifteen stories in James Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners. This collection of tales captures the grittiness of life in Dublin, Ireland, and especially focuses on the paralysis that, according to Joyce, prevented the country from achieving any meaningful economic, political, or social progress. Although a Modernist writer, Joyce was nonetheless influenced by Realist writers, such as Gustave Flaubert, whose novel Madame Bovary is one of the most famous examples of this genre. Realism’s focus on everyday experiences is showcased in “After the Race” and the other Dubliners stories. While most of the other stories in Dubliners portray characters from the middle and lower classes, “After the Race” is about an upper-class Irishman, whose fixation on the European continent has similarities to Gabriel Conroy’s, the protagonist of Joyce’s story “The Dead.” “After the Race” plays with the Modernist concept of stream-of-consciousness writing, a narrative mode that Joyce refines and exercises in his later books A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake, the latter of which is notorious for pushing this narrative style to the edge of understanding. James Joyce is one of the most famous Modernists from the early 20th century and helped shape the genre, along with: Virginia Woolf, author of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse; poet T.S. Eliot; critic and writer Ezra Pound, who serialized Ulysses in his magazine The Little Review; and others. Although Dubliners had been quickly eclipsed by Joyce’s later works in the early 1900s, it is now enjoying renewed criticism and attention. In 2014, 100 years after the publication date of Dubliners, editor Thomas Morris gathered fifteen Irish writers to recreate the stories of the original book by Joyce; the resulting collection is called Dubliners 100.
Key Facts about After the Race
  • Full Title: After the Race
  • When Written: 1904
  • Where Written: Dublin, Ireland
  • When Published: First published as a standalone story in a weekly publication called The Irish Homestead in December 1904. It was also part of James Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners, which was published in 1914.
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short story, Realism
  • Setting: Dublin, Ireland
  • Climax: When the card game finishes, leaving Jimmy Doyle a loser and significantly indebted to his companions
  • Antagonist: Although the Englishman Routh sometimes plays the role of antagonist (as during the political argument at dinner, or in the card game that he wins at Jimmy’s expense), Jimmy’s own poor decisions and inaction are the more accurate antagonists.
  • Point of View: Third person primarily limited to Jimmy Doyle’s consciousness, although there are instances when this third person narrator is omniscient and describes other characters’ inner thoughts and feelings as well.

Extra Credit for After the Race

Setting the scene.  In April of 1903, a year before he would return to Dublin to be with his dying mother, James Joyce interviewed a French race-car driver for the periodical The Irish Times. This driver, named Henri Fournier, was supposed to participate in the Gordon-Bennett automobile race that would take place in Ireland in July of 1903. Although Fournier did not end up participating after all, Joyce made the most of this exchange, and used the race as the setting for his story “After the Race.”

Socialist sympathies. Capitalism and its effects are a central subject in “After the Race.” Given the anti-capitalist sentiment in the story, it is not surprising that James Joyce maintained an interest in socialism throughout his life. While living in Dublin, he was earnestly involved in socialist organizations. After becoming disillusioned with the internal fights among socialists that blocked significant progress, his active participation waned. Nonetheless, his socialist sympathies remained throughout his life, and were frequently explored in his writing.