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In Counterparts from Dubliners by James Joyce, what do Mr. Alleyne’s complaints...

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junjlo | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 26, 2013 at 1:03 AM via web

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  1. In Counterparts from Dubliners by James Joyce, what do Mr. Alleyne’s complaints about Farrington tell us about Farrington? Does his reaction to these complaints support or weaken Mr. Alleyne’s accusations?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 26, 2013 at 5:04 AM (Answer #1)

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Farrington is a man, without much enthusiasm, who goes about his work as a clerk in an office in Counterparts, one of the short stories that make up Dubliners by James Joyce.  Farrington is discontent with his work and his life in general and it shows in his work to which he can give no real attention as he lacks any real motivation at all.

Mr Alleyne, his manager and part owner of Crosbie and Alleyne. obviously complains to Farrington regularly about the quality of his work and his lack of attention to detail to the point that Farrington almost does not care. The complaints only serve to increase his frustration and an inclination to violence is hinted at as he stands before Mr Alleyne who accuses him of always "shirking work."

Rather than concentrating on the task at hand, Farrington feels "a spasm of rage" which grips "his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst." It seems that Mr Alleyne is right about Farrington's attitude towards his work as, instead of getting back to work, he quietly sneaks out of the office to get a drink. His reasons for lacking dedication may stem from Mr Alleyne's constant bickering - he describes Farrington as an "impertinent ruffian"-and superior attitude but also from Farrington's feelings of helplessness as he can not improve his lot - nor does he try to!

After being humiliated in front of the other office staff and having an evening of drinking with his friends and losing an arm-wrestling competition, his frustrations have intensified. He obviously did not even apply himself during the arm wrestling as he is a large man and could easily have had the better of his opponent also revealing his character - demotivated, probably depressed and certainly not doing anything to improve his lot. Unfortunately he takes his frustrtions home with him.

The story comes full circle as Farrington hits his son with a belt - even though he is not the subject of Farrington's discontent - save that his dinner is not ready and the fire has gone out. Interestingly, his behavior reveals that he's much like Mr Alleyne, without even realising it, punishing and humiliating his son purely because he has power over him. 

Mr Alleyne's expectations that Farrington never gets things right are supported by Farrington's actions and the stereotypical Irish heavy drinker who is violent to those who least deserve it, is apparent in Farrington. He so wanted to take out his frustrations on Alleyne but can do nothing other than apologize and take his anger elsewhere.     

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