Why is Farrington unable to concentrate on his work?
One reason that Farrington is unable to concentrate on his work is because he hates it. There is a monotony and sense of boredom that Farrington has for his job. He has little emotional connection to it. As a result, he performs it with a vacant sensibility. He embodies the alienated laborer:
He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be...
The "stare stupidly" and the lack of focus represents this condition of emptiness that is present in his work. At the same time, Farrington is consumed with the anger he feels towards his boss. The exposition of the story relays a particularly brutal reprimanding that Farrington experiences. There is a lingering sting to this that causes Farrington to leave for an afternoon drink as well as dread the concept of working for such a boss. When he is called to Alleyne's office, Farrington expresses this condition of workers who detest the people in the position of power over them: "The man muttered "Blast him!" under his breath and pushed back his chair to stand up." Such a condition prevents Farrington from being able to concentrate on his work.
At the same time, Farrington really enjoys drinking. There is a desire to escape into drinking from the numbing condition of work. This is another reason he is unable to concentrate on his work:
The man stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he must have a good night's drinking.
Throughout the narrative, Joyce is able to draw Farrington as a character who "needs" to drink in order to escape. Drinking provides a realm away from what is, and a hopeful construction of "another world." Its illusory nature is what compels him to break focus from his work as it continues to gnaw at him, making concentration very difficult.