A Little Cloud

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"A Little Cloud"
Author James Joyce
Country  Ireland
Language English
Genre(s) short story
Published in Dubliners
Publication type Collection
Media type Print
Publication date 1914
Preceded by ""The Boarding House""
Followed by ""Counterparts""

"A Little Cloud" is a short story in Dubliners, by James Joyce.

The story[edit]

The story follows Thomas Chandler, or "Little Chandler" as he is known, through a portion of his day. The story drops the reader into Little Chandler's life when he is at work. He cannot focus for he is preoccupied with the thought of a visit later that day. He anxiously awaits this visit that will be with his old friend Ignatius Gallaher. Gallaher is now a "brilliant figure" in the London Press and Little Chandler has not seen him in eight years. As Little Chandler thinks about his old friend and the success that has come to him, he begins to reflect upon his own life. This reflection gives the reader insight to Little Chandler's character. The reader sees Little Chandler as a mere observer of life, a reluctant character. He is timid, because he enjoys poetry yet is too "shy" to read it to his wife.

Little Chandler likes to think that he himself could have been a writer if only he had put his mind to it. All of the "different moods and impressions he wished to express in verse" could still be achieved if he could just express himself. But as much as Little Chandler covers up his true feelings with these thoughts that seem to "comfort" him, the reader can see past this. The reader can see that Little Chandler in fact feels incompetent, underachieved, and ultimately inferior to his friend Gallaher.

These feelings are more clearly exposed to the reader in the bar where Little Chandler actually meets Gallaher. Here, Gallaher tells enchanting stories of his vast traveling. His life is the exact opposite of Little Chandler's and Little Chandler begins to feel that his wife is holding him back from success as a result of Gallaher's glorification of his travels and freedoms. Without his wife, without his little boy, he would be free to prosper. Deep jealousy sets into Little Chandler. It seems as though the more they drink, and the longer they talk, the more inferior Chandler feels. Still, he tries to hide his envy of Gallaher's life by saying how one day Gallaher will get married and start a family too.

Joyce shifts the scene to Little Chandler's home. We find Little Chandler with his child in his arms. He is sitting at a table looking at a picture of his wife, Annie. He looks into her eyes searching for answers to his now confused state of mind. All he finds is coldness. He sees a pretty girl, but he can see no life in her, and he compares her unfavourably to the rich, exotic women Gallaher says are available to him. He wonders why he married Annie. He then opens a book of Byron's poetry and begins to read until the child begins to cry and Little Chandler finds he cannot comfort him. Little Chandler snaps at his son. The frightened baby cries harder and harder until Annie comes. Through her interaction with Little Chandler and the child, it becomes apparent that Little Chandler is not her main priority.

Little Chandler feels trapped. All feelings of hope that existed at the beginning of the day are now gone. It is at this moment that Little Chandler reaches a deep moment of recognition. He finally sees the truth that the reader has known all along. His own reluctance is the only thing responsible for his feelings of incompleteness, and he can now only blame himself. Tears come to Little Chandler's eyes, and the story is cut off.