After the Race

by

James Joyce

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Car Symbol Icon

Cars in “After the Race” represent industrial and economic power, the era’s obsession with achieving this power, and how industrial and economic might is possessed by several western European and North American countries, but not by the Irish. The narrator suggests this symbolism at the beginning of the story, when cars are speeding across Ireland for the real-life Gordon-Bennett automobile race, which the narrator summarizes as “through this channel of poverty and inaction the continent sped its wealth and industry.” Only France, Germany, England, and the United States had participating cars in this actual, historic race of 1903, which shows that these countries have industrial and economic power. Ireland, notably, only participates as the setting for the race. The might of these countries is quite literally driven all over Ireland, whose people do nothing but stand on the sidelines and admire the industrial energy of these other nations and “pay homage to the snorting motor.”

The Irish who do have money, represented by Jimmy Doyle, are obsessed with cars and the economic power they symbolize. Jimmy loves cars, and his actions demonstrate how his obsession with them (and therefore, his obsession with achieving industrial and economic power) contribute to the paralysis of both himself and Ireland. Jimmy neglects his studies, which could contribute to his personal and professional development, to socialize with “motoring circles.” He is easily seduced by the elation that comes from “rapid motion” from driving in a car, and his thoughts never reach deeper, which speaks to Jimmy’s superficiality and the role that industrial capitalism plays in it. When he tries “to translate into days’ work that lordly car on which he sat,” he is distracted by the “style” and speed of the car, which illustrates how far removed he is from what is required—time, resources, human lives—to actually make a car, or an economic and industrial empire. He plans on investing a large amount of money into the not-yet-existent motoring company of Charles Ségouin’s, which, the story suggests, is likely a bad idea; he is, after all, putting his trust in a mere acquaintance simply because Ségouin has “the unmistakable air of wealth.” Further, by deciding to invest in a French company, instead of investing in an Irish venture, Jimmy contributes to the inaction of Ireland by distributing Irish resources to foreign countries. Jimmy’s actions also illustrate a belief in Irish, and therefore his own, inferiority—in his desire to achieve economic and industrial power, he looks for validation in other countries, and completely neglects the needs of his native Ireland.

Car Quotes in After the Race

The After the Race quotes below all refer to the symbol of Car. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ireland at the Beginning of the 20th Century Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of After the Race published in 1993.
After the Race Quotes

At the crest of the hill at Inchicore sightseers had gathered in clumps to watch the cars careering homeward and through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry. Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed.

Related Symbols: Car, The Race
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does the possession of money. These were three good reasons for Jimmy’s excitement.

Related Characters: Jimmy Doyle
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy set out to translate into days’ work that lordly car on which he sat. How smoothly it ran. In what style they had come careering along the country roads! The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blue animal.

Related Characters: Jimmy Doyle
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Near the bank Ségouin drew up and Jimmy and his friend alighted. A little knot of people collected on the footpath to pay homage to the snorting motor.

Related Characters: Charles Ségouin, Jimmy Doyle, Villona
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire After the Race LitChart as a printable PDF.
After the Race PDF

Car Symbol Timeline in After the Race

The timeline below shows where the symbol Car appears in After the Race. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
After the Race
Ireland at the Beginning of the 20th Century Theme Icon
Capitalism, Commodification, and Amorality Theme Icon
Cars are speeding towards Dublin and people have gathered to watch the race. While the cars... (full context)
Capitalism, Commodification, and Amorality Theme Icon
Within one of the French cars are four men who are each very excited for different reasons. The French owner of... (full context)
Ireland at the Beginning of the 20th Century Theme Icon
Wealth and Greed vs. Citizenship Theme Icon
The car drives along. Ségouin and Rivière, who are in the front seat, are speaking in French... (full context)
Wealth and Greed vs. Citizenship Theme Icon
Capitalism, Commodification, and Amorality Theme Icon
...his father is confident that there’s a lot of money to be made in the car industry. Jimmy’s confidence is also bolstered by the fact that Ségouin appears to be very... (full context)
Ireland at the Beginning of the 20th Century Theme Icon
Wealth and Greed vs. Citizenship Theme Icon
Capitalism, Commodification, and Amorality Theme Icon
When they arrive in Dublin, Ségouin drops Jimmy and Villona off at the bank. The car draws lots of attention from passersby, who gather “to pay homage to the snorting motor.”... (full context)
Ireland at the Beginning of the 20th Century Theme Icon
Capitalism, Commodification, and Amorality Theme Icon
...conversation and nobody really knows what anyone else is talking about. They get into a car before taking a train to Kingstown, where a ticket collector salutes Jimmy and comments on... (full context)