Dubliners: Novel Summary: Ivy Day in the Committee Room
Old Jack rakes the cinders of the fire in the committee room on Wicklow Street as the younger but gray-haired Mr. O'Connor rolls and lights a cigarette. The rain has kept O'Connor from canvassing the district for the nationalist Mr. Richard J. Tierney's election. The men keep each other company and Jack complains about his son's drinking: "I tried to make him someway decent" (98). Mr. Haynes joins them and they talk of politics. Haynes talks with great passion about the plight of the working man, who "gets all the kinks and no halfpence," but O'Connor and Old Jack are more concerned with getting paid than the issues (100). Haynes doesn't support Tierney because he has committed to be on hand to greet England's King Edward when he visits Ireland. O'Connor at first denies this but then acquiesces and insists he is mainly concerned with the money. Hynes, who is wearing an ivy leaf on his lapel in remembrance of Charles Stewart Parnell, praises Parnell, and the others agree. Mr. Henchy next joins the group and says as yet there is no money. The men talk about how they've been campaigning by talking to voters. Henchy casts aspersions on Tierney and doubts he can win, and then Hynes leaves. Henchy inquires about him and O'Connor says he's a good man while Henchy remarks that Haynes is a spy for the opposition candidate, Colgan. Old Jack agrees but O'Connor remains adamant in his positive impression of Hynes. Henchy thinks some of the nationalists are in fact informers for the British.
Next, Father Keon enters, looking for the sub-sheriff Mr. Fanning. He is told to check at the Black Eagle. Then the men gossip about how the priest is in trouble either because he is too active politically or because he drinks too much. Mr. Henchy complains that the beer from Tierney hasn't arrived and continues on a tirade about Dublin's corrupt government. He wishes that he himself could be a city father so he could take part in bribes. Then the group takes up the idea of Henchy becoming mayor, with O'Connor as his secretary, Jack wearing a powdered wig, and Father Keon, the chaplain. Old Jack says Henchy has more of a presence than the present mayor. A teenage boy finally arrives with the promised beer but they have to send him back for an opener. Upon his return, they invite the boy to partake of beer and he quickly drinks it before leaving. Then they gossip about the boy and say that's how drinking problems get started.
As they drink, Henchy complains about Crofton who is not very effective as a canvasser. Crofton then enters with young Lyons and they criticize Henchy's canvassing methods. Henchy criticizes them in turn. Since the boy took the corkscrew they open beers for by putting the bottles in the fireplace to force the cork top off. Crofton, who works for the Conservative Party, quietly gazes at his companions. He decided to work for Tierney now so his opponent won't win. The bottle pops, and they all drink and discuss how to get voters to switch sides. The subject of King Edward's visit comes up and Henchy insists it will be good for business while O'Connor speaks out against it in remembrance of Parnell. Henchy insists Parnell is dead and Crofton agrees. Lyons calls King Edward a womanizer but Henchy remarks the king is just like everyone else when it comes to drink and women. Lyons insists the country has forgotten how they condemned Parnell himself for his adulterous affair and so how can they now welcome a similarly immoral king just because it's good for business. Finally they drop the issue when they consider it is indeed Ivy day, the anniversary of Parnell's death. Crofton puts in that Conservatives do respect him for being a gentleman. Hynes returns and is offered beer. Henchy says that Hynes always supported Parnell even when everyone else was against him and Hynes is asked to read the poem he wrote to commemorate Parnell's death titled "The Death of Parnell: 6th October, 1891." Haynes recites his poem which compares the dead leader to "Erin's heroes of the past" (112). The men applaud and another bottle in the fireplace goes "Pok!" Deeply moved, O'Connor rolls another cigarette. Crofton says "it was a very fine piece of writing (112).
In the twelfth story of Dubliners, the death of the Irish Nationalist hero, and James Joyce's personal hero, Charles Stewart Parnell, is commemorated on October 6th, Ivy Day. Parnell sought independence for Ireland but lost support of the Catholic Church and subsequently the Irish people because of an adulterous affair with a married woman named Kitty O'Shea. He died of exhaustion brought on by stress. His memory lives on as a martyr for the cause of Irish Independence.
Joyce illustrates the differences between political parties, the Nationalists and the Conservatives, and the apathy they both share. There is no real leadership: all the good men are dead. The Nationalists Jack and O'Connor care only about money and free beer and not at all for Tierney the candidate. Henchy worries more about the beer than the election. There is simply no central leader like Parnell to unite the men. Tierney is so far apart from Parnell politically that even the opposing
Conservatives will vote for him. Each side works to keep things as they are so they rely on the character of the candidate to acquire votes. Indeed, they are more interested in beer and gossip than on moving their country in a positive direction. At the end of the story, however, they are all moved by the not very literary but sincere poem which makes them pause and consider what could have been had the true leader Parnell not been so harshly castigated and allowed to lead.