A Summary of "Counterparts" by James Joyce

by Michael Belcher Google
Many locations in Joyce's stories can still be found in Dublin.

Many locations in Joyce's stories can still be found in Dublin.

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"Counterparts" is a short story by James Joyce. The story is a part of "Dubliners," a collection of stories published in 1914 that takes places in and around Dublin, Ireland. Many characters in the these stories appear later as minor characters in Joyce's masterpiece, "Ulysses." "Counterparts" tells of an afternoon and evening in the life of Farrington, an alcoholic clerk.

At Work

Farrington is called into the office of Mr. Alleyne, a partner in the firm. Alleyne berates Farrington about not having a contract already copied, demanding it be done before he leaves for the day. Farrington returns to his desk, but sneaks out to O'Neill's pub for a quick drink. He gulps down a pint and heads back to work.


Farrington returns to work and smells the perfume of Miss Delacour, a client. His immediate boss, the chief clerk, laughs when he realizes Farrington had been at the pub, and tells him that Alleyne wants the Delacour correspondence in his office. Farrington delivers the packet of letters, then sets about finishing his copying assignment. As he works, his mind wanders back to the pub. He begins to think of how wonderful it would be to be back in the pub among friends. Alleyne notices two letters missing from the file, and publicly confronts Farrington about them. Farrington says he knows nothing of the two letters, and Alleyne asks if Farrington think's he is stupid. Farrigton replies "I don't think, sir, that that's a fair question to put to me." Farrington is fired for the remark, and leaves the office.

Drinks at the Pub

Farrington, with nowhere to go, thinks of ways to get money before he goes out drinking. He decides to pawn his gold watch chain for six shillings before meeting his friends at Davy Bryne's pub. Farrington tells his friends how he was fired, and they all say it was a very smart retort while they buy him drinks. They leave the pub and go to another, where they meet some traveling acrobats. They have more drinks and follow the acrobats to Mulligan's pub. At Mulligan's, they are introduced to two ladies, one of whom Farrington finds very attractive. The ladies leave; Farrington, angry at his poverty, is pressured into an arm wrestling match with one of the traveling acrobats. Farrington loses twice and becomes angry at his humiliation.

Home Life

The pub closes, and an angry Farrington takes a tram home. Farrington comes home angry and drunk to find the kitchen empty. All but one of his five children are in bed and his wife is at chapel. Farrington takes out his anger on his son. The story ends with Farrington beating his son with a walking stick and his son pleading for mercy.


  • "Dubliners"; "Counterparts"; James Joyce; 1914

About the Author

Michael Belcher has been a public relations professional since 2008 working for university groups and volunteer groups. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University and is in Dublin, Ireland to finish a Master of Science in mass communications.

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