A Tale of Two Cities: Portrayals of London and Dublin in “A Little Cloud”

As I was reading this week, I was very interested in the way that the inhabitants of Dublin in Dubliners viewed themselves and their city in relation to the wider world. The story “A Little Cloud” stood out to me for the way that it contrasts the cities of London and Dublin with its two principle characters, Little Chandler and Gallaher. The attitudes of these two men seem to embody the attitudes of the two cities—at least from the perspective of a Dubliner. Gallaher is ambitious and successful, but also lacks a firm moral structure. He does not have much respect for either religion or marriage, both of which contrast him against Chandler. Chandler is a more morally concerned person, as well as a father and husband, embodying the traditional values of Ireland. Chandler is also “little,” perhaps indicative of Dublin’s small stature on the world stage. This observation is reinforced by Gallaher’s condescending attitude towards his native, “dear dirty Dublin.” Chandler senses, in a moment of bitterness, how “Gallaher was only patronising him by his friendliness just as he was patronising Ireland by his visit.” Gallaher, now steeped in the exciting new world of London, only returns to Dublin for nostalgia’s sake and in a way to marvel at how, in his eyes, he has outgrown his old city. Chandler’s rigid life bound by immediate domestic and practical concerns also contrasts starkly with Gallaher’s wayward, free life. London is a place where one can chase after their desires and lofty dreams—where the actualization of these desires is at least possible. However, in Dublin, one must learn to give these things up and accept what is perhaps a more dull and monotonous existence—just as Chandler accepts the reality of his life at the end of the story.

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