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Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15) 
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Post Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)

Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences.



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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
There might be competition for the title of least likable character in Dubliners. Farrington here is surely a frontrunner. What is Joyce's purpose is presenting such an unrelieved picture of selfish, boorish, and violent behavior? Is it just for the sake of telling it to the Irish like it is? Joyce himself said that his purpose was to portray "the reality of experience," and further that in that effort he would "write a chapter in the moral history of my country."

The introducer in the Everyman edition of Dubliners that I picked up also says, "Joyce's artistic challenge in Dubliners is to excite sympathy for characters who appear hopeless, and to render significant lives that seem without significance, and to do this without falling into pathos."

Does this apply to "Counterparts"?



Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:45 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
DWill wrote:
There might be competition for the title of least likable character in Dubliners. Farrington here is surely a frontrunner. What is Joyce's purpose is presenting such an unrelieved picture of selfish, boorish, and violent behavior? Is it just for the sake of telling it to the Irish like it is? Joyce himself said that his purpose was to portray "the reality of experience," and further that in that effort he would "write a chapter in the moral history of my country."

The introducer in the Everyman edition of Dubliners that I picked up also says, "Joyce's artistic challenge in Dubliners is to excite sympathy for characters who appear hopeless, and to render significant lives that seem without significance, and to do this without falling into pathos."

Does this apply to "Counterparts"?


Farrington is an alcoholic. As despicable a character as he is, I do feel a general sort of sympathy for him as an alcoholic. No one wakes up one day and decides to be an alcoholic. People use alcohol to deal with life when they lack other resources to deal and sometimes this leads to alcoholism. When reading this story I wondered if Joyce was intentionally painting a portrait of the limitations of opportunity and what happens to people in confining situations - they get depressed and sometimes mean.

What I really wondered is, what the heck does the title mean?! Who is Farrington's counterpart?



Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:27 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
Saffron wrote:
DWill wrote:
There might be competition for the title of least likable character in Dubliners. Farrington here is surely a frontrunner. What is Joyce's purpose is presenting such an unrelieved picture of selfish, boorish, and violent behavior? Is it just for the sake of telling it to the Irish like it is? Joyce himself said that his purpose was to portray "the reality of experience," and further that in that effort he would "write a chapter in the moral history of my country."

The introducer in the Everyman edition of Dubliners that I picked up also says, "Joyce's artistic challenge in Dubliners is to excite sympathy for characters who appear hopeless, and to render significant lives that seem without significance, and to do this without falling into pathos."

Does this apply to "Counterparts"?


Farrington is an alcoholic. As despicable a character as he is, I do feel a general sort of sympathy for him as an alcoholic. No one wakes up one day and decides to be an alcoholic. People use alcohol to deal with life when they lack other resources to deal and sometimes this leads to alcoholism. When reading this story I wondered if Joyce was intentionally painting a portrait of the limitations of opportunity and what happens to people in confining situations - they get depressed and sometimes mean.

What I really wondered is, what the heck does the title mean?! Who is Farrington's counterpart?

I remember noting that the word "counter" was used several times, both in Farrington's place of business and of course in the drinking establishments he visited on his big night. I took the title as a bit of a pun.

You gave us some sociological detail a while age concerning "The Boardinghouse." One of Joyce's aims was to get the sociological and other details precisely right, so that for me the stories sometimes have a case-history quality. In "Counterparts," Joyce also gets the clinical details right: Farrington experiences the "thirst," or alcoholic cravings; he exhibits tolerance to the drug, so that it takes a great amount for him to get drunk; and of course he totally messes up his work and family life for the sake of drink. What he does to his young son at the end is criminal.

Yet for all of that, I can see how a person of any spirit would feel crushed by the life Farrington leads, especially his job. Mr. Alleyne is a weasel and the work is almost senseless. Farrington, a large and imposing man, seems mismatched to his sedentary job of copying. He hungers to exercise his talents in some way, even though that way involves carousing. But he fails in everything that night as he tries to be the generous man at the center of attention--rejected by the woman whose gaze meets his, losing to a young Englishman in a game of strength, not becoming happily drunk and forgetting himself, and then having to face his home life.

I read a comment on the way Joyce often refers to Farrington as "the man," as if to emphasize the lack of identity that he himself must feel. Joyce tried to make the characters' own perceptions and feelings color the narrative parts, so that as much as possible it would seem that it was not he, the author, who was analyzing or judging, but the characters who were telling their own story even in third-person narrative.



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Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:49 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
DWill wrote:

Saffron wrote:
What I really wondered is, what the heck does the title mean?! Who is Farrington's counterpart?

I remember noting that the word "counter" was used several times, both in Farrington's place of business and of course in the drinking establishments he visited on his big night. I took the title as a bit of a pun.

I like this idea - it really gives me a visual of the story. I looked up definitions for counterpart and look what I found:
4. (Law) a duplicate, esp of a legal document; copy

This is in fact what Farrington does for a living. And what a tedious living it must be. His life in a tedious copy of one day to next as well.

DWill wrote:
You gave us some sociological detail a while age concerning "The Boardinghouse." One of Joyce's aims was to get the sociological and other details precisely right, so that for me the stories sometimes have a case-history quality.
Why, yes, they do kinda read like sociological case studies.



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Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:14 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
Joyce depicts those who lead hopeless, dull, mundane lives. Farrington, the main character in "Counterparts," works as a scrivener, tediously copying long legal documents by hand. You don't get a sense that he has many choices in life. He is forever being hassled by his boss, threatened with firing for not getting his work done on time. So Farrington lives only to drink now, sneaking out in the middle of the day to have a pint (eating a caraway seed to disguise the smell of alcohol). He is preoccupied with having enough money to buy alcohol because he wants to get drunk after work. He ends up hocking his watch after work and then, later on, suffers one final indignity (loss of stature) in losing an arm wrestling match to some young whelp.

It's an interesting detail here that the whites of Farrington's eyes are dirty as if his own hopelessness and decrepitude have dirtied his soul. There's no hope left for this guy. He obviously takes no pleasure in raising his rather large family and doesn't even know the name of the son who greets him that night. (I wonder of Joyce is making a comment about the Catholic Church which promotes large families.) Losing the arm wrestling match causes Farrington to go home in a rather foul mood. He isn't even drunk, his one goal that day, and so he takes out his frustrations on one of his children.

I think we're beyond feeling sympathy for Joyce's characters in these stories. Joyce is willing to look at the dark side of human nature to make his point about the dehumanizing aspects of modern existence. Farrington could easily be an older version of Little Chandler in the previous story, "Little Cloud." While Little Chandler has only one child, he already feels trapped. But Farrington has been married longer and has five children. Farrington feels even more desperately trapped than Little Chandler to the point that he's given up.


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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
Good points, and I agree it's hard to feel sympathetic to someone like Farrington, and to attribute all his ills to environment. Maybe understanding works better than sympathy. There is a sense of tragic waste here, a kind of crying out in pain for the indignities that modern, urban humans must suffer. Only Joyce refuses to sentimentalize by giving us a way to root for Farrington, which we would gladly do if Farrington decided to lash out against his hopeless state in some way that we could see as positive. But that's not what really happens when people are caught in society's vice, Joyce seems to suggest. Farrington is as blind and paralyzed as the rest.

Little Chandler's course you wonder about. Maybe with him, there's some chance that he'll face up to the meanness of his life and accept it for what it is. He has already sensed that what Gallagher has achieved is glamorous but not admirable. A good deal of self-delusion runs through these Dubliners.



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Post Re: Dubliners - "Counterparts" (Story 9 of 15)
Little Chandler was at least imagining himself as a poet and achieving some fame that way, so yes, I think you're right. There's a ray of hope there, though perhaps not a very realistic dream.

This guy Farrington hits his own kid so he's beyond sympathetic. Joyce is pretty brutal with his depiction of his meanness.

I won't go in to the reasons why, but this story hit home for me.


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