Right at the opening lines of the story, it can already be noticed that the author is trying to establish a portrait of the setting. With the line the grey warm evening of August already suggests the feeling of sobriety amid a warm evening to the point of being close to dullness as it sets the mood for the proceeding paragraphs in the story. The color grey suggests the fine line between white and black, which all the more makes sense when added with the line warm evening in August, thus implying the feeling that the characters in the story are just about to commence with what they have in mind just about when the evening sets in.
The first paragraph of the story obviously establishes the mood of the setting, notable with the authors use of the lines a mild, warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the streets which suggests that summer has been over although there is still the feeling of summer around the area, and the authors comparison of the shining lamps to that of illumined pearls is a metaphor which adds not only color but also a certain feel of the setting. The same can also be said about the authors description of the street which can be observed from the description of the author in which the light from the lamps change shape and hue unceasingly as the streets are swarmed with a gaily colored crowd.
The author also provides an interesting initial description of Corley and Lenehan, the two main characters in the story. Lenehan was described as someone who wore an amused listening face while Corley was about to conclude his long monologue. The eyes of Lenehan were twinkling with cunning enjoyment as he listened to Corleys stretch of narrative. It can be said that the choice of words of the author in partially describing the characters are, at the least, vivid and vibrant.
The use of the words twinkling and amused to describe the eyes and the face of the characters respectively tells us more than what can apparently be said about the descriptions. The words transcend beyond mere description as they give a different kind of meaning or characteristic to the face and eyes of Lenehan and Corley respectively. A listening face, for the most part, tell us that Lenehan was very attentive to the narrative of Corley precisely because the former did not only listen with his ears but with his amused face.
Another interesting part where the author describes Lenehan is the part where the author compares Lenehan to a leech, as that was the characters social reputation. That is the part where the authors choice of a term that will best befit the character of Lenehan tells us the extend of the imagination of the author, reflecting the depth of the skills of James Joyce in selecting words that do not only have deep metaphorical values but also have social relevance. That being said, the imagery of the character of Lenehan is already summarized right after the author described him as a leech because, for all we know, a leech sucks blood or life out of others. In essence, the term leech to describe Lenehan was already a huge and provocative statement in itself.
On the other hand, the authors presentation of the image of Corley is equally amusing as it is vivid and describes the character in a crafty manner. Joyce describes Corley as the son of a police inspector, who has large, globular and oily head which sweated in all weathers. The words used by the author to illustrate the image of Corley is amusing simply because of the words globular and oily, which also suggests that, indeed, Joyce is an author who makes sense out of words which are considered to be out of the ordinary in describing individuals in real life situations.
That observation only leads us to the observation that Joyce is indeed focused on writing a story that is very well within the bounds of good literature. To describe a persons head as globular and oily is also a statement in itself as those two words already give the reader a specific mental image of what Corley looks like. The choice of words illustrates all the more the capacity of the author to turn words into powerful adjectives.
Among the lists of the presentation of imagery in the story include but is not limited to the large faint moon circled with a double halo, and the pale disc of the moon which became veiled and appeared to meditate. Seldom can one encounter these descriptions of the moon at nighttime largely because the interest to describe the surroundings is either usually observed in the literary world or in rare occasions of the sudden outburst of ones imagination in real life cases.
Indeed, Joyce once again delivers the literary touch in terms of diction and presentation of imagery, correlating the features of short story with that of the experience of the characters which seem to linger between reality and fantasy. By describing the moon as a large, pale and faint disc surrounded by a double halo while appearing to meditate, the portrayal of the moon comes in full circle. The moon is depicted not merely as an inanimate object floating in the night sky but as an object which appears to meditate; a description which is characteristic among individuals who seek comfort in silence.
Joyces method of using words that usually relate to the activities of living humans to an inanimate object is reflective of personification. By combining the words which can rightfully describe inanimate objects to that of a word which is largely attributed to animate objects gives the reader the feeling that the inanimate object, which in this case is the moon, appears before Lenehan as an object which is both animate and inanimate”a seeming paradox. Nonetheless, this seeming paradox is understandable as it is one which is aimed at presenting an imagery which is not strictly or solely confined within the bounds of real possibilities.
There is a part in the story where the movement of Corleys head is described as swinging to and fro as if to toss aside an insistent insect while Corleys brows gathered. The description of the movement of Corleys head gives the reader the feeling that, while reading and imagining the action of Corley simultaneously in ones imagination, the shaking of the head must have been swift and forceful as if to toss aside an insistent insect. It gives the reader the impression that Corley was irritated while his brows gathered, suggesting that he was also showing signs of doubt pressed with a lingering hesitation or reservation somewhere in his mind. Indeed, Joyces use of diction in this part clearly highlights the authors efforts to give life to what can be considered as a character in print. It animates, so to speak, a character which is technically inanimate.
More importantly, the various names of streets mentioned in the story all point to the Irish-Catholic Dubliners with the English, sending the reader the impression upon closer examination that the story operates within the background of an Irish and English perspectives. It can also be observed that the story makes certain references to certain colors, such as blue and white in describing what the housekeeper was wearing.
The colors blue and white can be attributed to the colors of the dress of the Virgin Mary, which again creates a paradox precisely because the housekeeper who Corley went with is not a virgin in the strictest sense of the word. Thus, the choice of words of the author of the story is not merely based on the fancy of the mind or in random choosing of colors. Rather, and more importantly, the colors chosen were selected to signify socially, or religiously relevant criticisms.
To a certain extent, it can be said that the criticism that Joyce is trying to impress upon the reader with the colors blue and white is the idea that the Irish society during those times, especially the religious church, has failed in maintaining the moral and religious foundations of the people in many ways. Joyce gives the chilling idea that from where the church has failed, the people have picked on those failings to do about their dealings with others. Corley, Lenehan and the woman housekeeper are examples to illustrate that point in the story.
It is important to note that the Two Gallants gives us a fine look into James Joyces ability to flesh out words and use them to bring characters to life, to make inanimate objects turn into animate creatures, and to make social criticisms. The presentation of imagery throughout the story is vivid and vibrant which is met by Joyce through his artistry with diction and in using that diction as a means to create a story with a sensible plot, one that goes beyond the pages and reflects the society during that time.
Joyce, James. Two Gallants. Dubliners. Prestwick House, Inc., 2006. 41-50.