What is the basis for conversation between Farrington and his friends in Counterparts by James Joyce? What do these stories say about them and about their lives?
Counterparts is one of the stories in James Joyce's Dubliners' series. Farrington is in an unrewarding job and has no motivation to do well. He feels unfairly treated and his manager, Mr. Alleyne patronizes and belittles him, especially in front of a wealthy client, Miss Parker whom Mr. Alleyne is trying to impress. After Farrington fails to hand Mr. Alleyne all the required documentation, Alleyne warns him and expresses his displeasure. When Farrington gets to the local "public house" (pub), he is ready with an elaborate, exaggerated story, telling his friends that
... I just looked at him—coolly, you know... 'I don't think that that's a fair question to put to me,' says I.
He omits to tell them that he had to apologize unreservedly after his "impertinent" comment; otherwise he would have lost his job. Farrington's friends commend Farrington's seemingly impressive behavior, remembering some of their own disagreements. Higgins even reinforces Farrington's story and the men drink to Farrington's boldness.
When some of them go onto another bar, they talk about the theater and one friend, "Weathers" offers to even introduce his friends to some "nice girls." The visit will be at a later date but Farrington is married so will not be accompanying them. Farrington becomes distracted and loses track of his friends' conversations. He even arm wrestles but loses and is most unimpressed at himself. He becomes very angry, realizing that he has paid for many of the drinks or "rounds" and this makes him even more angry to the point that when he arrives home his son will suffer the brunt of his rage.
Farrington's behavior and that of his friends reveals their monotonous lives, without real direction or purpose. it also reveals that they, and especially Farrington, do not take steps to better themselves, rather blaming their circumstances without taking responsibility for their own lives and future.