I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.

The Farrington’s Case

Literature often attempts to make meaning through characters being forced to engage in some kind of spiritual or moral reconciliation. James Joyce’s Dubliners series of stories centers on a single epiphany: paralysis within a vicious cycle of frustration and despair. Because epiphany suggests some divine manifestation, it is important. Joyce’s characters are far from spiritual creatures. Joyce exposes their un-sacrificial and sometimes even embarrassing moments and helps the reader realize the common problems that plague society. Farrington is a vulgar character in “Counterparts”. He’s stuck in a monotonous job at a law office as a copyist. But it soon becomes obvious that he’s a demented alcoholic who doesn’t care about his work except to have the money to drink. “Counterparts” is about Farrington’s realization of his unfulfilling life, paralyzed and confused by his alcoholism.

Farrington’s law office is the main institution that causes him paralysis. He clearly feels trapped in this bureaucracy and has to answer only to Mr. Alleyne. Farrington is not a fan of Mr. Alleyne, especially because he is tall and bulky and values strength, virility, athleticism. Farrington is frustrated to be subordinate to a “little” bald man who wears “gold-rimmed sunglasses.” This makes it easy to understand why Farrington later insults Mr. Alleyne, as he feels he has to assert his superiority. But, this victory is futile because Farrington must admit his mistakes and apologize if they want to retain their position. Farrington’s first emasculating incident. This comes from his need and desire to assert his masculinity. Farrington found escape through alcohol and the “comforts” of the pub. He becomes angry or passionate and feels the need to get it satiated immediately. After being told off, Mr. Alleyne makes Farrington go to a bar to get a drink. This is not the first time he has done this. Farrington has already done this “five times in one night” before.

Farrington regrets his mistake and apologizes. However, Farrington believes he still has the right for bragging about his first “triumph”. He’s now forced to spend his money to get a good night. He imagines a night of carousal, but it isn’t the real story. At first, he is happy to have money in his pocket and his friends are proud of him. However, he soon finds himself being snubbed and wooed by a gorgeous woman. This is Farrington’s first encounter with emasculation. He is then defeated in arm wrestling by Weathers, a young acrobat. Farrington sees his manhood symbolically stripped away in the most primitive fashion possible. He is unable to conquer sexual conquests or test his strength. He also fails to reach his original goal of becoming drunk. He is finally left with just “twopence” and returns home to his sullen rage.

Overall, Farrington appears to be a brutal, obese, and oafish man. His job prospects are not good for him. Further, his self-esteem is shattered by the humiliations and other mistreatments he has suffered. Farrington is unhappy in his family and seeks to escape through religion. Farrington beat his son Tom, his innocent son, to prove his manhood. The tragic truth of Farrington’s epiphany is that alcohol abuse is a constant cycle that keeps him trapped in a miserable existence. Importantly, “Counterparts”, is presented following “A Little Cloud” from Dubliners. Joyce intended the reader to draw a comparison between the two by the title and the choronology. The end shows that Little Chandler, Farrington are identical. They have different personalities and social backgrounds, but they end up abusing children and feeling empty. Little Chandler is paralyzed from his shyness as well as sensitivity while Farrington suffers from ignorance and alcoholism. Joyce juxtaposes these characters to show the reader that paralysis, lack of fulfillment, and financial status are all problems.


  • emmetthouse

    Emmett House is a 29 yo school teacher and blogger who is passionate about education. He has a vast amount of experience in the field and is always eager to share his insights with others. Emmett is a dedicated teacher who truly cares about his students' success. He is also an expert on using technology in the classroom, and is always looking for new ways to engage his students.

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