Counterparts by James Joyce
Counterparts is another story in James Joyce’s iconic collection of 1914, Dubliners.
It is the story of a clerk, Farrington, who works in a solicitor’s office in Dublin. Through the course of the narrative, he is frequently referred to as ‘the man.’ This allows the character to be less an individual and more of an archetype or Everyman, representing a particular type of male of that period living and working in Dublin.
The story begins with a confrontation between the protagonist and his boss, Mr Alleyne. Farrington is behind in his work. He is told that unless some important legal documents are copied by closing time, he will be reported to the senior partner. Farrington swallows his anger and makes a mental note to arrange drinks with his friends that evening. Unable to concentrate he slips out of work and goes for a drink at a local bar. However, on his return, his absence has been noticed. Another incomplete file by Farrington is discovered by Alleyne resulting in a further confrontation. Farrington responds to his reprimand with a witty remark that enrages his boss although amuses some of his colleagues. However, Farrington is forced to apologise to Alleyne.
When he leaves the office that evening he has still not completed the required work and dreads the anticipated backlash that he feels is inevitable. He remains determined to enjoy himself that evening, drinking with his friends, although he is forced to pawn his pocket watch in order to fund the evening. When he finally meets up in a pub with his friends, he regales them with the story of insulting his boss. Another clerk at the office joins them for a drink and supports Farrington with his version of the story. Moving on to another pub, one of his friends introduces Farrington to an acrobat called Weathers. Weathers joins the group, happy to accept the drinks being offered. Farrington becomes peeved by the money he is spending on drinks, especially as Weathers is accepting his drinks without reciprocating. A well dressed woman ignores Farrington’s flirtatious advances. He is then beaten at arm wrestling by Weathers.
Angry and humiliated, Farrington returns home to find his wife, Ada, at church. One of his five children, Tom, is ordered to light the…