The short story “Two Gallants” by James Joyce follows an ordinary day in the lives of two males. Lenehan and Corley are two middle-aged male rogues whose intent is to gain wealth through wooing maids into stealing from their employers. Corley informs Lenehan of a woman that he has recently begun seeing and Lenehan asks if she is the type of person that can be convinced to steal from her employers in which Corley brags that she would do it for him. As Corley and the maid meet up, Lenehan leaves them to their meeting and goes to get dinner. Whilst eating his meal, he reflects on his shambolic life and dreams of having a fulfilling and secure living. He finishes dinner and calls out after Corley as he sees him leaving, Corley turns around to him and flashes him a gold coin to show him that their scheme has worked.
This passage incorporates the use of meronymic techniques and modality to represent Corley and Lenehan’s personalities. Through the changing of agencies within the passage and investigating further into separate clauses, we can see that their personalities both complement and contrast each other. Corley is seen as the more governing figure out of the two as he boasts about his luck with women and has a more sociable personality than Lenehan. Lenehan is much more reserved and fixated on himself rather than other women. From an analysis of individual clauses, it is clear that Joyce shifts the agencies in order to portray his characters in a particular way.
As Lenehan is the quieter of the two, the agency is shifted onto Corley. From the start, we can see that Lenehan’s agency is questioned by the vast description of him before the writer mentions his name. This shows that Joyce wanted to emphasise Lenehan’s characteristics and begin the plot of the story before he introduced Lenehan by name. Lenehan is described as being “ravaged” and cunning- this description allows readers to think of him as the typical hero-villain character in which he is seen negatively but also creates a sense of interest as the audience wants to know more about him. When referring to Lenehan, Joyce strips him of agency as he rarely mentions his name and frequently refers to him as “he”. The use of pronouns to replace Lenehan’s name indicates that the author is attempting to cast his opinion of Lenehan through the use of neutral shading and tries to convince the readers to make up their own minds about him- if not feel a little sorry for him. Joyce uses meronymic language when describing Lenehan “wore an amused listening face” emphasises the lack of agency as he is not genuinely interested or involved in Corley’s conversation and his opinion has no importance.
Corley’s agency is challenged as he is described to be an unemployed and shallow man who’s interests lie in women and money. This forces readers to view him negatively almost immediately.