Farrington, in The Counterparts, is unquestionably one of the most maligned characters who inhabit the short stories that comprise Joyce’s Dubliners. The infamous conclusion of Counterparts in which Farrington viciously beats his helpless son with a walking stick after returning from a frustrating day at work and the pubs seem for some to be more than adequate reasoning for his condemnation. If not, the description of his son begging him to stop and offering to say a “Hail Mary” for his sinful father, seems to clinch the response. However, it is extremely important to remember that Farrington is sinned against as well as sinning: that he is a product as well as a perpetrator of the paralysis of Dublin. Like other Dubliners, Farrington is trapped by the Irish nets of religion, language, and nationality. In fact, Ireland’s misgovernance by English law is illustrated by the story of Farrington’s mistreatment, so that Farrington’s inarticulate rage against innocent bystanders is comprehensible, if not exonerated, on political grounds.
The reader is introduced to Farrington, a red-faced gigantic man who Joyce constantly portrays as heavy, plodding, drooping, and ruddy. “When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were dirty.” The hugeness of his physique is thus contrasted to the tedium of his work. The mundane task of duplication neither allows him any mental exercise nor demands any physical exertion. The energy thus remains bottled within the humongous frame, which then takes the shape of relentless vitriol. While the monotony of this job enrages him, Farrington envisions release from such deadening activity in the warmth and drink of public houses. But his experiences there only beget further routine. Following the “round” tradition in which each person in a group takes turns buying drinks for all...
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