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by James Joyce

Dubliners Counterparts Summary

  • The boss, Mr Alleyne, angrily calls Farrington up to his office and yells at him for avoiding work and taking really, really long lunch breaks. 
  • Mr Alleyne tells him he better finish copying out a contract by the end of the day or he'll be in really hot water.
  • Farrington gets super angry and decides "that he must have a good night's drinking" (Counterparts.15). Yeah, because that's a good solution to all your work-related problems.
  • When he gets back to his desk, he's not excited about doing any work, and counts the pages he has left and then stares blankly at the line he has to write, "In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be." (Counterparts.20)
  • He decides he needs a drink before he can do any work, so he tricks the chief clerk into thinking he's going somewhere inside the office, and goes to O'Neill's, a bar just down the street (which was an actual bar in Dublin's Henry Street). 
  • Farrington chugs a beer at O'Neill's and goes back to the office. 
  • The chief clerk has figured out his trick and laughs at how many times a day Farrington slips out to get a drink. 
  • As it turns out, Miss Delacour, an important client who might also be having an affair with Mr Alleyne, has come in while Farrington was drinking. Farrington is supposed to have copied out an important document for her case, so it's not exactly a good situation.
  • Now he really has to finish his work, but all he wants is to be back in the bars. He picks up the Delacour documents and takes them up to Mr Alleyne's office, hoping he won't notice that they aren't done. 
  • Back downstairs, he tries to get back to work but he's still way too distracted. He makes a typo on the "Bernard Bodley" line, and since he's writing by hand, he has to start on a whole new page. 
  • This really frustrates him and imagines clearing the whole office: "His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence" (Counterparts.32). 
  • There's one thing stopping him from a night of boozing, though: he's completely broke.
  • While he's thinking about this, he doesn't even hear the boss calling his name. Just like the friend at the end of "An Encounter," "his name was called twice before he answered" (Counterparts.33). 
  • The boss catches the fact that Farrington didn't finish the Delacour documents, and he starts screaming at the guy. He yells and yells and yells for so long that Farrington finds himself wanting to react violently.
  • Farrington makes an unintentional joke. Here's how it goes: the boss asks him, "Do you think me an utter fool?" and Farrington responds, "I don't think, sir […] that that's a fair question to put to me" (Counterparts.35, 37). It's like saying, "I plead the fifth!" or "Do you really want me to give you an honest answer? I don't think so." 
  • Everyone goes silent and "everyone was astounded" that Farrington has been so bold (Counterparts.38). Miss Delacour thinks the joke is funny, though, which makes Mr Alleyne really mad, so he forces Farrington to apologize.
  • The scene cuts to Farrington walking after work. 
  • Desperate for cash, he decides to pawn his watch. 
  • He gets six shillings for the thing and leaves the pawnshop pumped for the night ahead: it's going to be enough to buy drinks.
  • Farrington's especially proud now of his little joke, and starts thinking about how he'll tell his drinking buddies. 
  • One version that he thinks up goes like this: "—So, I just looked at him—coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I looked back at him again—taking my time, you know. I don't think that's a fair question to put to me, says I" (Counterparts.43).
  • He arrives at the bar and starts drinking and telling the story as everyone arrives. Farrington buys another round after everyone trades stories. 
  • The whole crowd switches bars and trades more stories and keeps drinking. We find out Farrington's married, and his friends tease him. 
  • On to bar number three. Here, Farrington starts eyeing a woman who has "something striking in her appearance" (Counterparts.47). 
  • They exchange glances but she leaves without looking at him, and he's upset that he has so little money and has been buying everyone else's drinks. 
  • Then it's time for arm-wrestling, and Farrington loses twice to a younger, smaller man. When the bartender reacts to Weathers' victory, Farrington yells, "What the hell do you know about it?" (Counterparts.55).
  • The story breaks off and we cut to Farrington waiting for a tram ride home to Sandymount (it's not far from the part of town where the boys in "An Encounter" end up, on the east end of town). Farrington's nearly broke, not even drunk, and very, very mad (surprise, surprise, right?). 
  • Farrington gets home and calls for his wife, but she's out at chapel. She's the kind of woman who "bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk" (Counterparts.60). 
  • "They had five children." One of his sons meets him at the bottom of the stairs and plans to warm up his dinner (Counterparts.60).
  • Farrington yells at the kid for letting the fire go out, and then chases him around the room to hit him with a walking stick. 
  • The boy "uttered a squeal of pain" and repeats his pleas or Farrington to stop beating him, "I'll say a Hail Mary for you" (Counterparts.80).

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