Dubliners

by: James Joyce

Farrington, “Counterparts”

One of the darkest characters in Dubliners, Farrington rebels violently against his dull, routine life. He experiences paralyzing, mechanical repetition day after day as a copy clerk, and his mind-numbing tasks and uncompromising boss cause rage to simmer inside him. After the day in question in “Counterparts,” the rage becomes so explosive that Farrington unleashes it on the most innocent figure in his world, one of his children. The root of Farrington’s problem is his inability to realize the maddening circularity that defines his days. Farrington has no boundaries between the different parts of his world: his work life mimics his social life and his family life. No one part of his life can serve as an escape from any other part because each element has the potential to enrage him. Farrington consistently makes life worse for himself, not better. He slips away from work as he pleases, insults his boss, and matter-of-factly pawns his watch to buy alcohol. Though each small rebellion makes him momentarily happy, the displaced rage simply reappears someplace else, usually exacerbated by his actions. This lack of mindfulness about the consequences of his actions spills over into Farrington’s anger, over which he appears to have little or no control.

Farrington’s explosive violence sets him apart from some of the other characters in Dubliners, who oftenaccept routine and boredom as facts of life and do little to upset the balance of familiarity and calm they’ve established. Mr. Duffy in “A Painful Case,” for example, identifies so fully with his routines that he cannot upset them even for the chance of love. Eveline, too, chooses her familiar routines instead of leaping into the unknown, even though those routines are far inferior to the possibilities before her. Farrington’s insensitivity to the people around him also casts him as the opposite of Eveline, whose concern for what others will think of her overrides her own desires. As the brutal bully of Dubliners, Farrington shows what can happen when a life consists primarily of mindless repetition: sooner or later violence will surface, and those who witness or are subject to the violence may themselves act violently in the future.