Counterparts/ James Joyce Essay, Research Paper
Strive To Do Nothing
James Joyce has a very intricate way of writing his short stories. Dubliners is a
book of short stories revolving around several totally different people from the city of
Dublin, Ireland. Joyce puts these characters through a number of situations in order to
show the moral characteristics of Dubliners. These situations inhibit many forms of
human disturbances including: sexual frustration, escapism, self-identification, human
unfullfillment, the struggle between the classes, and toiling with the characters sense of
belonging. In the story Counterparts, Joyce uses a combination a psychologically
challenging lifestyle and everyday sexual frustration to drive the main character,
Farrington, to his breaking point.
Farrington is the commonplace Dubliner with a pointless job and an everlasting
need for a drink at the local bar. Reading the story, the reader can almost visualize this
boring drunk moping around on the sad streets of Dublin. Farrington’s job is one of
repetition, being that he transcribes contracts all day, and his only excitement is the ten
times a day he slips out of the office to run to the bar across the street. He cannot get
motivated to do anything because he has no feeling of self worth. Farrington would
probably rather be just a drunk who stays at the bar all day, but he needs the money to
support his habit. Joyce describes several instances where Farrington is just sitting at his
desk and cannot work which Joyce could be relating to either Farrington’s stupidity or
showing that Farrington is not doing what he wants because he is so conformant to
society that he cannot figure out what to do with himself. In all of the Dubliners short
stories, there is a struggle to succeed. The Dubliners seem to somehow always manage
never to make any improvements in their lives and never succeed in anything that they
do. Farrington wants to change but he cant because he does not have the means of doing
it. The fact that the Farrington has already fallen so far behind at work, that there is no
reason for him even to try to catch up serves as an analogy to the helplessness of
Farrington’s life and the pointlessness of life in Dublin. Farrington has almost a split
personality between the bar and work. At the bar, he is respected as kind of one of the
big men who is popular, yet at work, he is treated as he is a child and talked down to.
Farrington has no idea who he is or what he wants out of life. He goes every day of his
life without ever doing something worthwhile or meaningful. Farrington is challenged
everyday and given some opportunities but he never cares, he never tries to fix anything,
and he never attempts to advance the status of his life past the title of a drunk.
In the beginning of the story, Joyce refers to Farrington as “the man.” It seems
that Joyce makes this reference when Farrington is at work or at home. The only
identification Farrington has is at the bar that he frequents. This negative environment at
work and home forces him to do the things that cause his problems in the first place.
Farrington cannot find a reason to change these factors because of the sense of
helplessness in Dublin society.
As in all the stories in Dubliners, Counterparts has a major erotic component.
Women seem to be the only thing that motivate Farrington or any male Dubliner to take
any initiative or think about what he is doing. Still it seems that Farrington cannot even
achieve the recognition of any woman. Farrington misses his wife who had recently left
him, and longed for someone to take care of him and give his life some purpose. Joyce
tells of how Farrington can smell Miss. Delacour’s perfume from outside of the office.
And when Mr. Alleyne scolds him in her presence Farrington defends him for the first
for the first time out of years of being verbally battered by his boss. Joyce does not even
say that Farrington is attracted to Miss Delacour, but he will still not let little Mr. Alleyne
abuse him like that in front of a lady. Farrington wants more than anything to buy the
women that he sees at the bar a drink, but he cannot being that he has spent all of his
money on the days drinking. The absence of a female in Farringtons life just makes it
harder to have any reason of changing anything in his life.
The psychologically challenging components in Farringtons life cause him not to
act in a positive way, but to continue the dreadful life he has lead up to this point. In all
of the short stories of Dubliners, the characters cannot escape form either their actions or
their environment. It seems that there is a definite order in the classes of Dublin and
although some are better off than others, even the higher classes cannot find happiness in
their lives and thrive on making the lower classes lives even worse than they already are.
Joyce seems to be trying to get the reader to understand that Dublin is a horrible place
and its inhabitants are overshadowed by its horrific existence.