A car race speeds to the end as onlookers on the sides of the Dublin street cheer their fellow French Catholics in the blue cars: "through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry" (30). In one of the "trimly built" French cars were four young men: Charles S,gouin, the owner of the car; Andre Rivere, of French-Canadian birth; a Hungarian named Villona and a neatly groomed Irish young man named Doyle, who at twenty-six was "too excited to be genuinely happy" (30). His father, the butcher who has become wealthy by opening a chain of shops, sent his son to college in England, then to Dublin University to study law. Finally when he ran into debt, the butcher sent his son off to Cambridge "to see a little of life" (32). Here, he met S,gouin, whose father, it is believed, is one of France's wealthiest men, and the charming Hungarian Villona, a brilliant pianist, but very poor.
At the Doyles' home, Jimmy and Villona dress before meeting S,gouin for dinner and are later joined by Routh, an Englishman whom Doyle had seen with S,gouin at Cambridge. An argument breaks out between Doyle the Irishman and the English Routh but S,gouin manages to calm things down, and the dinner continues rich in conversation of mechanics, music and poetry: "here was congenial ground for all" (33). Later, on a walk around Dublin "in a faint cloud of aromatic smoke, the men meet Farley, a wealthy young American, and all decide to go to his yacht. First they sing and dance and then eat, all the while drinking toasts to the various countries they represent: "what merriment!" (34). Soon they begin a card game while Villona plays the piano. Doyle becomes drunk and continues to drink even more. His playing is sloppy and he knows he's losing. When the game ends, he learns he and the American Farley are the biggest losers, but he still has no idea of the total amount. He only knows that in the morning he will be miserable, but for the time being he recedes into the denial of drunkenness: "he knew that he would regret it in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would swallow up his folly." Doyle sits, his head in his hands, as the Hungarian announces "Daybreak, gentlemen" (35).
The title provides the meaning to the fifth Dubliners story, the race here being the outcome of Europe's race to colonize the world. When we consider that England and France "won," most, or perhaps the best territories, we know who will win the car race, and the card game, for that matter.
Ireland has no car in the race as it has no position on the imperialist stage. Ireland cheers on France simply because it is a fellow Catholic country and a traditional ally. However, religion aside, the French talked the talk, but failed to support Ireland after the French Revolution in Ireland's own bid for freedom from the British. But, it is better from the Irish perspective to cheer for France instead of their historical enemy England, the country that colonized Ireland. So what place then does Ireland play on the world's political stage? Or, how does young Jimmy Doyle fit in with the international upper crust? Joyce would have us believe that the wealthy Irish cannot mingle with such as the continental Europeans and Americans. Doyle cannot stand as an equal with the other men just as Ireland cannot stand as an equal with England, France and America. He is a colonized subject, after all, and this will stand against him regardless of how much money
he possesses. In addition, Doyle's wealth has come from his father's supplying meat to those who supported British rule which indirectly insures Ireland's continuation as a colony. In addition, Doyle himself has no catalog of enviable attributes. He doesn't take advantage of his education and spends money carelessly. He allows the other men to lead him even though they are in his own country. He drinks to his detriment and finally, he cannot afford the habits of the truly rich. He can play the game, but he can never win.