Eight years earlier Little Chandler said goodbye to his friend Gallagher who had left Dublin for London to become a journalist. Gallagher had "become a brilliant figure on the London press" and now Little Chandler feels excited to meet his friend once more. Although he is not particularly small he is called "Little Chandler" because he "gives one the idea of being a little man" (55). He sits in his office looking out the window as the sun sets and feels sad when he looks at the various people. He remembers his poetry books and how periodically he feels like sharing some verse with his wife, or better yet to write poetry himself, but he is embarrassed and too fearful to try.
After he leaves work he makes his way to Corless's, an upscale bar he has never been to, thinking of the man Gallagher was eight years ago, his wild and rough nature and how he was always borrowing money. Again, he dreams of being a poet and attaining recognition in Britain as a member of the literary Celtic school. He thinks: "there was no doubt about it. If you wanted to make something of yourself you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin." He decides to ask Chandler about it (57).
Gallagher greets Chandler with enthusiasm and they talk about old friends in "dear dirty Dublin" who have married and settled down or "gone to the dogs" with drink (59). Little Chandler feels intimidated now in the presence of Chandler and admits he has never traveled, except to the Isle of Man, while Gallagher has visited all the great cities of Europe. Then Little Chandler's attitude changes and he begins to find Gallagher vulgar and asks whether Paris is "as immoral as they say," to which Gallagher laughs (61). Chandler invites Gallagher to his home. He has been married for a year and has a baby boy. Gallagher pleads lack of time and insists they have another drink. Chandler can't help but feel jealous of Gallagher. His own life pales by comparison. He, after all, is "superior in birth and education" and he feels positive he "could have done something better than his friend had ever done.if he only had the chance" (64). When the men talk about marriage, Gallagher insists it's not for him yet: no sense, he says putting "my head in the sack," to which Chandler says he will like everyone else if he "can find the girl" (64). Gallagher insists he will marry money.
Chandler returns home but forgets to pick up coffee for his wife. Ann is out shopping. Looking at her picture, he feels irritated that she isn't an exotic continental woman and he feels like a prisoner. He reads one of Byron's sad poems while holding the crying baby, and wonders once more whether he could write such words. After his attempt to soothe the baby fails, he screams "Stop!" (67). Annie returns home to find the baby still crying. She calms him and yells at Chandler who stands helplessly by, his eyes filled with "tears of remorse" (68).
The eighth story in Dubliners presents stagnation as its theme. Little Chandler, who was brighter than his friend Gallagher, has accomplished little in eight years while his rough and ready, "immoral" friend has a brilliant career. However, Gallagher left Ireland for England while Chandler remained and married an Irish woman. He finds himself now, at the age of thirty-two, mired in the mud of Ireland, so to speak, trapped and paralyzed. Little Chandler dreams of being a poet but never has he put pen to paper. His dream of being recognized as a member of the Celtic School is also misplaced since
this form of melancholic poetry merely advanced British stereotypes of the melancholic Irish temperament. Dublin has also trapped Chandler as a provincial prude who judges Paris as immoral, which is a joke considering the myriad of immoralities committed by the Dubliners themselves in Joyce's stories. As Chandler attempts to read the Byron poem, the baby screams and Chandler realizes that he will never be free. The question remains: are his tears of remorse for screaming at his son or are they for himself?