Course Hero. "Dubliners Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Dec. 2016. Web. 11 May 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dubliners/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 28). Dubliners Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dubliners/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Dubliners Study Guide." December 28, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dubliners/.
Course Hero, "Dubliners Study Guide," December 28, 2016, accessed May 11, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dubliners/.
Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of "Counterparts" from James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners.
Farrington works in a law office. His boss, Mr. Alleyne, reprimands him for failing to complete a copy of a contract by the deadline. This is not the first of Mr. Alleyne's reprimands, nor will it be the last. Farrington is angry and resolves to spend the evening drinking. He returns to his desk and finds he cannot wait until evening, so he leaves the office, goes to the pub, and downs a pint of porter "at a gulp."
When Farrington returns to the office, the lead clerk tells him Mr. Alleyne is looking for him and realizes where Farrington has been, making an observation that Farrington has been out five times today. Mr. Alleyne wants the correspondence on a case for a client named Miss Delacour. Farrington finds the file and delivers it to Mr. Alleyne, hoping he will not notice two letters are missing at the end of it. Farrington returns to his desk again, but the porter and the rushing around have made his thinking fuzzy. He is so wrapped up in thoughts of where he will drink in the evening he almost misses Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour when they come to confront him about the missing letters, which Farrington denies any knowledge about. When Mr. Alleyne asks Farrington if he takes him for a fool, Farrington replies, "I do not think, sir, ... that that's a fair question to put to me." Furious, Mr. Alleyne demands an apology or a resignation. Farrington apologizes but knows he will be unable to get an advance on his salary for the evening's drinks, and Mr. Alleyne will continue to hound him.
When Farrington realizes he can sell his watch, he leaves the office and goes straight to the pawn shop. He joins his buddies for drinks at a pub where he recounts the story of standing up to Mr. Alleyne to everyone's amusement. Farrington and his friends make their way through several bars during the evening, working their way through the watch money. Farrington notices a pretty woman with an English accent, but she pays him no mind. At the end of the evening, Farrington and a friend named Weathers have an arm wrestling contest. Farrington is embarrassed and angry when Weathers beats him, twice.
Farrington comes home to find the kitchen empty and the fire almost extinguished. He calls out to his wife, but one of his five children, Tom, comes downstairs instead. He tells his father that his mother has gone to church. Farrington demands his dinner, and Tom offers to cook for him. Farrington points to the dead fire and proceeds to beat Tom with a stick for letting the fire go out, while Tom offers to pray for his father.
Farrington is easily the least sympathetic character in all of Dubliners. He is disrespectful to his boss who rightly calls him out for being a terrible employee. He is resentful of his friends who expect him to buy them drinks. He is a sore loser when he is bested at arm wrestling. He is neglectful and abusive to his young child. He appears to have no redeeming features as a worker, a friend, or a parent.
And yet, some of Farrington's frustration at his life is understandable. He is the product of an environment that has afforded him few opportunities and has kept him in a semi-impoverished state. His job in a law office is making copies. It is simple work, but it is also a tedious and mind-numbing task ill-suited to a strong, able-bodied man. Mr. Alleyne, again, rightfully frustrated with Farrington, expresses almost as much rage as Farrington does. It is not clear why he keeps Farrington on his payroll if Farrington is so bad at his job, so it may be that Mr. Alleyne enjoys having an outlet for his own frustrations. Like many Irish at the time of James Joyce's writing, Farrington finds escape from the drudgery of his work by drinking. This is not a productive answer to his problem, but he has few other means of escape available to him.
Farrington also lacks the ability to form any meaningful human connections that might allow him to find more satisfaction in his life. Little Chandler in "A Little Cloud" feels stifled and wishes for the bohemian life of a poet, but he also comes to recognize the value of his wife and child. Farrington does not see the value in his family. His wife is not home when he comes in, so it is possible she actively avoids him. He sees his five children as nonentities. His drinking buddies exist only to provide an audience for his stories and to buy their rounds of drinks. There is no strong companionship or support here. Even though Farrington spends his entire day surrounded by people, he is isolated by his anger and his obsession with drinking.
Obviously, Farrington's worst moment occurs at the end of the story when he beats his son. He accuses the child of letting the kitchen fire go out, but it is unreasonable and dangerous to hold a small child accountable for tending a fire. Farrington is only looking for an excuse to be angry and beat the child. Farrington feels powerless in his job—made even worse by being forced to apologize to Mr. Alleyne—and losing the arm wrestling match has made him feel powerless as a man, but Tom is someone Farrington can exert power over, so he does.