The card game’s symbolism is two-fold. On one hand, it represents that, in international competition, Ireland will lose. The game also represents the recklessness of the Irish upper-class, as well as this class’s selfish and self-destructive desire to compete with and gain validation from larger, richer, and more powerful countries. The card game is similar to the race in that it symbolizes competition between nations, with each character in the card game representing their country: Jimmy Doyle for Ireland; Charles Ségouin for France; André Rivière for Canada; Routh for England; and Farley for the United States. Unlike the car race, Ireland does enter into the card game, which suggests that the game represents a more general capitalistic competition between nations, as opposed to the specific struggle for global economic and industrial dominance that is symbolized by the race.
The card game is a gambling game, and Jimmy enters it willingly. By engaging, Jimmy is quite literally playing with Irish money, which symbolizes Irish upper-class’s bad management of what Irish resources they control. He makes the poor decision to get excessively drunk, so by the time he starts playing, he ends up confusing his cards and needing the other men to sort out his I.O.U.’s. This latter action may suggest foul play on the behalf of the other players; after all, these men are mere acquaintances. As each character represents their home country in this international competition, the other men’s possibly dubious management of Jimmy’s I.O.U.’s while he is drunk may signify that other countries are taking advantage of Ireland’s incapacities.
Jimmy’s frivolity and desire to be among these men are also to blame for his losses. He makes the decision to play and, when things start going poorly and “he wishe[s] they would stop,” he doesn’t take any action to end the game or to quit. Compared to Villona’s decision to not play, Jimmy’s participation suggests that the wealthy Irish are relying on the affirmation and validation from other countries. Joyce uses Villona as a guide for how the Irish should behave – Ireland needs to be more independent (socially, economically, and politically) and should stop getting caught up in a game that favors more economically powerful countries. When trying to compete, Jimmy can’t keep up. He is outmaneuvered by the British and French, who are represented by Routh and Ségouin, respectively. Routh wins, which represents England’s dominance on an international level. Jimmy’s loss and heavy debts therefore signify a larger loss for Ireland in this international competition. Joyce doesn’t just have Jimmy lose, however. The American Farley is also a heavy loser in this card game. Yet Farley’s losses are different in an important way: Farley is much richer than Jimmy—he owns the yacht them men are playing in. Given this, Joyce may be suggesting that Farley’s failure represents the wastefulness and carelessness of Americans, but also the wealth and power that allows America to absorb such lack of wisdom in a way that the Irish can’t.
The Card Game Quotes in After the Race
Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.’s for him. They were devils of fellows but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.
It was a terrible game. They stopped just before the end of it to drink for luck. Jimmy understood that the game lay between Routh and Ségouin. What excitement! Jimmy was excited too; he would lose, of course. How much had he written away?