After an automobile race outside Dublin, a 26-year-old Irishman named Jimmy, the son of a wealthy former butcher, accompanies the French team back into the city. Jimmy was educated at a Catholic preparatory school in England, then Trinity College in Dublin, and finally at Cambridge University (though he was never a serious student). Back in Dublin, Jimmy and one of the drivers (Villona) change their clothes at his parents' house, and then join the others (Ségouin and Rivière) as well as a young Englishman (Routh) for dinner at the hotel of a team member. Afterward, accompanied by an American (Farley), Jimmy, the French racing team, and the Englishman take a train to nearby Kingstown. There they board the American's yacht. Aboard the yacht they dance, eat, drink, and play cards, at which Jimmy loses a great deal of money.
Unlike most of the other stories in Dubliners, "After the Race" is not highly regarded by most critics, who believe that Joyce was describing here a social class (the very wealthy) about which he knew very little.
Still, it is consistent with the other stories in the collection with regard to both theme and symbolism. Jimmy illustrates the theme of paralysis by not progressing in any real way. Jimmy's parents have used the money earned by his father in the butcher trade to send him to a series of highly regarded schools, and yet Jimmy seems to have learned very little as a result of his lavish education. Sure, he has made friends (like Charles Segouin, the owner of the racing car and a proprietor-to-be of an automobile dealership in Paris), but those friends are not necessarily loyal to Jimmy. From the opening scene, in which Jimmy cannot hear the driver and his cousin in the front seat over the Hungarian Villona's humming and the noise of the car itself, the reader has a sense of Jimmy's half-baked membership in the group. In fact, the team probably tolerates Jimmy strictly because of the money (his father's) that he has promised to invest in Segouin's company.
A racing car goes nowhere, of course, and though Jimmy boards a yacht near the story's conclusion, the boat remains at anchor — paralyzed. He feels as though he is accomplishing much on the night after the race, but like Dublin itself, which "wore the mask of a capital" though not really a capital, Jimmy's accomplishments are an illusion. In fact, he is worse off at the end of "After the Race" than he was at the beginning, having lost all his money at cards. Because it was this money that made him acceptable to the team in the first place, his flirtation with Continental glamour is probably near its end.
The French driver has "a line of shining white teeth" in contrast to the yellow or brown teeth seen on Irish characters to date (yellow and brown being Joyce's colors of decay and paralysis). Also, Jimmy's luck begins to change when the Englishman, Routh, joins the group; Jimmy himself was educated in England and at Protestant, Anglocentric Trinity College in Dublin. As in earlier stories, Joyce blames the English for Irish paralysis when he can.
their friends, the French the Irish identified with the French, traditionally rivals of the English, if not their enemies.
advanced Nationalist a supporter of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which sought independence for the country.
the Bank the Bank of Ireland; originally the Irish Parliament Building.
the mask of a capital though Dublin was a provincial capital, it had wielded no actual power over Ireland since the Act of Union was passed in 1801.
"Cadet Roussel" (French) a song from the 1790s.
"Ho! Ho! Hohé, vraiment!" the refrain from "Cadet Rousel."