Portafolios Electrónicos - Uniandes

Counterparts BY JAMES JOYCE

by Juan David Barragán Méndez

After reading the short story "COUNTERPARTS", what are your first thoughts of the Irish Culture?

 

I believe that more than one of you has thought of the customs and beliefs of the Irish after reading the short story "Counterparts". It is my intention to highlight the strong habit of drinking, which is ingrained in Farrington's life. To what extent a habit can push you to success or to failure? It is a delicate question to answer.

To begin with, it is my belief that we should feel really proud of our typical customs, which represent the essence of our countries. We unconsciously adapted them throughout our lives and the result of them is then how we interact each other everyday. One example of this is that in Colombia is pretty common to find people, as well as in "Counterparts", drinking for whatever reason with a couple of beers or a half bottle of "Aguardiente" (a well known typical drink of Colombia) on a table in a pub, at home or simply in a small tent. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing Colombians celebrating peacefully, chuckling loudly and always inviting you to join them. That truly represents a warm and welcoming country, which tries to dismantle negative stereotypes that have taken over the reputation of Colombia throughout the years with the drug export in the nineties.

On the other hand, I agree with the statement which says: "Everything in excess is dreadful". This fatal addiction to alcohol, as it is present in Farrington's character, can definitely lead to atrocious consequences. For instance, one is the physical aggression of Farrington towards his son. It is clear to see that alcohol turns a conscious behavior into an uncontrolled one. As it is regarded in the story, the child begged his father to stop hitting him by claiming "I'll say a Hail Mary". Afterall, we can infer that it is something that Farrington could not probably do in a conscious state. To make things worse, it is something that no only occurs in Ireland. Similarly, Colombia has faced various cases of intrafamily violence due to alcohol. Thousand of cases are seen everyday in which a man beats his wife's face because she does not want to do what he desires in that specific moment.  

Thus, I do not try to devalue Irish culture at all by saying that heavy drinkers react aggressively to alcohol. On the contrary, it was my intention to express my immediate positive reaction towards this usual custom in Ireland, which is absolutely reasonable and also takes place in my country, as a habit which embraces joy and happiness. However, what is mentioned above should concern us when it attempts against the safety of others.

In one picture I would like to describe Farrington's wife:

 

In spite of not having any description of the wife of Farrington in the story more than she was at church when her husband arrived home, I could imagine Mrs. Farrington in different ways: 

Firstly, we can infer a woman who lived under certain social patterns of behavior of that period of time. Indeed, just by the fact when Farrington got back home, he asked if there was somebody who could serve him anything to eat so it implied that somebody did it frequently. 

Secondly, Farrington's wife can be thought as another common woman from that age who would have desired to escape from that reality from which she had been accostumed. Put it differently, the work of Joyce can be situated in a period of time in which women did not have equal rights as men. For instance, I imagine her doing domestic work such as cleaning, gardening or caring children at home while his husband was working at the company.

Thirdly, it also might be thought that she could suffer from depression because of the severe conditions which surrounded her life. Rejection, physical abuse from his beloved violent husband, or simply loneliness (passing all days in the house) could be the possible causes to make her fall into an addiction, in this case alcohol.

 

From all the following adjectives, there is one which does not match Mr. Alleyne's personality. Which one?

 

  • GRUMPY Indeciso
  • HISTRIONIC Sorprendido
  • QUERULOUS (DISSATISFIED)Llora
  • STRICT Enfadado
  • CALM Risa
  • SELF-CONFIDENT Guiño

 

  • "Do you hear me now?... Ay and another little matter! I might as well be talking to the wall as talking to you."
  • "Understand once for all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a half. How many courses do you want, I'd like to know.... Do you mind me now?"
  • "Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word,
    Farrington, you take things easy!"

 

The phrases above are Mr. Alleyne's words towards Farrington. They might sound normal, although the author makes him sound irritable and untolerant. To what extent do you agree or disagree? Sonrisa

 

Dublin occupies a crucial role in narrating the story. Nothing could be developed but the space in which customs and beliefs took place in the metropolitan city of Ireland. The author showed us Dublin through the features of the characters such as their strong habit of drinking excessively, their bloody-mindedness temper seen in Farrington and Mr. Alleyne and the implicit role of genders in society.  

  • LIVELIHOOD: occupation, employment. 

Example: Her aggressive temper compelled her to resign her last job. Now she knows it is gonna be hard to earn her livelihood. 

 

  • JEOPARDY: danger, trouble, hazard.

Example: After the fall of the king, many peasants knew that their rights were in jeopardy in hands of the queen Mary Monica.

 

  • "HERE, HE HALTED...": he stopped.

Example: At that point everyone knew that it was too late to halt an epidemic. 

 

  • "THE SHRILLED VOICE": high-pitched voice.

Example: Emily rejected talking to her professor since she could not stand her shrilled voice shooting her during the discussion.

 

  • "GOLD-RIMMED GLASSES": bordered or surrounded by gold material.

Example: It is common to find wealthy people wearing gold-rimmed glasses when reading the bible at church.

 

  • "HAVE SOME EXCUSE FOR SHIRKING WORK": avoid or get out of responsibility.

Example: Robbers focus on how to steal others by shirking the real life of business of working honestly.

 

  • "I'LL LAY THE MATTER BEFORE...": To present something to someone.

Example: I laid my testament to all my children before passing away. 

 

  • "MR ALLEYNE HAS SWIVELED THE CHAIR": To spin around.

Example: Charlie knows how to cheer me up. He spins me around all the way I like a couple of times and then we go to the cinema and grab pop corn with soda.

 

  • "DROP OFF": To deliver.

Example: Professor Martin stated the first day of class that there is no excuse to drop off any workshop after 5 pm on Wednesdays. 

In support with the video I would like to portray to what degree I sympathize with Farrington.

 

Despite the fact Joyce illustrates Farrington such an unhappy and dissatisfied person with his routinary life, it is intriguing to identify the factors which make him feel that way and specially defeated through the short story. Thus, it is my intention to focus on two main factors which portray why I would not sympathize with Farrington at all. They are: The irresponsibility in job journeys and his awful treatment towards his little child. 

It is my belief that the major cause which pushes him to failure is his addiction to alcohol. As I mentioned in other columns, it can be perceived how typical is to see Irish people drinking "desperately" in streets or pubs at every moment. The story does not tell us in which moment he fell into addiction, although it is regarded how frequent he drinks, not to say excessively. As a matter of fact, while he is updating some papers, which need to be dropped off soon to his boss Mr. Alleyne, he cannot concentrate himself by thinking he wishes a beer immediately so he then is forced to leave behind what he is doing (working) and go grab one.  To me, I do not conceive his act of irresponsibility in work. Although it is understandable he cannot control himself from drinking, his ingrained costume has put him out of limits. As an example, he has been scolded for not being up to date in copying. 

Another reason is the aggresive treatment of Farrington towards his son. After being defeated by Weathers in the clasping hands episode, he feels terribly upset and powerless. The alcoholic could not stand the idea of being defeated by another man and even worse ending the day without being drunk. Later, he let his rage out at home, encountering his son and beating him because he did not know how to fire out. Needless to point out the words used to refer to him such as "Take that, you little whelp". What does he know about subtlety and tact? I guess nothing. His behavior leaves no more to say that he was born in a traditional-conservative family whose men's role was basically to go out work and women, in contrast, must stay at home caring of children and do domestic labour.

I could provide many other details of my apathy reaction towards Farrington's character. However, I also believe that it is completely logical why Joyce's intention was to show such a character, in order to present a popular lifestyle of the Irish culture in the nineteenth century. 

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