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Formalist Essay - Counterparts

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jslondon
Words 1010
Pages 5
Jessica London

J. Young

ENG3010

14 September 2012

Disillusioned Anger

James Joyce’s short story “Counterparts” illustrates a world filled with anger and disillusion by displaying a main character that exhibits the anger and disillusionment he is encountering in many aspects of his uninspiring life. Farrington, the main character, is portrayed as a bottom of the barrel type of man. Working as a “scrivener”, the text depicts as a trivial employee by others around him, particularly his superior Mr. Alleyne, and receives no appreciation for his work (71). Farrington reacts to this display by Mr. Alleyne of intolerance for subordinates by drinking his sorrows away, regardless the cost. Although powerless, Farrington continues to demonstrate what in his subconscious society expects of him by buying rounds of drinks at the pub, even though he has to pawn his watch to do so. He is again forced into his disappointing reality with complete disregard of his existence by societal beings outside his middle class circle. Farrington’s marriage is without deviation from every other facet of his life, with an often absent wife, whom routinely degrades the so called man of the family. The text does bring to light other notable premises such as the repression of women’s role in society at the time by belittling their role in the story, the division of cultures encountered by emphasizing the difference in Northern Irish, British, and Irish cultures, or even the paralysis of a community faced with remaining a colony or nationalizing, all of which are valid arguments. However, when viewed as a whole, “Counterparts” enlightens to a more complex matter of anger and disillusion as a result of a world saturated with the feelings of insignificance, discontentment, and dissatisfaction of life.

The narrator depicts Farrington’s coworkers as seeing him as a trivial employee; because of this, he perceives his job as thankless especially by his employer, even though his position as a “scrivener” is actually a very important position in the law firm. Mr. Alleyne reinforces the unimportance Farrington is feeling with his constant mocking and degrading of the emotionally feeble man. Mr. Alleyne declares this by abusively reprimanding his employee with “You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short work of you!”, eluding that Mr. Alleyne is superior to the irrelevant disposable man, suggesting any substitute could do his job equally well if not better. This absent appreciation of labor is a characteristic found in many phases of middle class workers both past and present. The outcome of workers feeling unappreciated is also very similar to what Farrington encounters with procrastination and deferment of doing his assignments, leaving the man feeling “hopeless”, choosing to focus on other activities of more importance to him such as an advance on his pay and going to the local pub (73).

Farrington’s disillusioned response to Mr. Allyene is suggested by the narrator to be the only way for one to effectively cope with intolerance for sub ordinance shown by superiors. When faced with confrontation by Mr. Alleyne in regards to his lack of concern of his work, Farrington expresses his “sharp sensation of thirst” as he “recognized the sensation and felt that he must have a good night’s drinking.” (71). His need for comfort in the form of alcohol can be related to how many individuals deal with current economical and further issues in the world. The way individuals, such as Farrington, choose to cope with issues like misplaced anger, financial, marriage, or numerous other problems lends a direct correlation to how that person sees themselves in society. Farrington drowns his internal sorrows and disappointment of his life regardless the cost to him. He even has to pawn his watch to be able to pay for his drinks and the drinks he will be expected to purchase by his drinking buddies.

The text further contributes to Farrington’s craving for social acceptance and going to great length to do so, such as pawning his watch in order to falsify the image that he has the means to conform to what society expects of him. He lacks acceptance in the workplace, so turns to friends and alcohol to find the recognition he desires. While in the pub, he seeks acceptance in any form, this time in that of a woman at the bar. After continuous “gazing”, the woman “brushed against his chair and said ‘O, pardon!’ in a London accent.” (79) The narrator describes Farrington’s reaction as “He watched her leave the room in the hope that she would look back at him but he was disappointed.” (79) Farrington resumes his relentless search for acceptance; however, this pursuit proves to go array when he is reminded of how powerless he really is when he arm wrestles in a call “to uphold the national honour”, and loses twice to the younger protestant man. At this point, the narrator interludes Farrington’s feeling of “humiliated and discontented” and again began to “feel thirsty” (80). His need to conform to societal expectations pushes Farrington further into disillusion of anger in his subconscious world.

After a long road of others pushing, insulting, and mocking him, Farrington longed for his chance to rule over weaker counterparts. Farrington finds this ability of finally being superior at home. Although without deviation from the other facets of his life, Farrington is shown to have an arbitrary home life. The text describes his wife as “a little sharpfaced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk.” (81) When arriving home, he is met by one of his five children, which are undistinguishable and subject to substitution by the narrator. Farrington finally finds a being weaker than himself, as the text shows his treatment of his son, considered a lower class subordinate, with “’Now, you’ll let the fire out the next time!’ Said the man striking at him viciously with the stick. ‘Take that, you little whelp!’” (82). The actions taken by Farrington are comparable to the tone of Mr. Allyene, taking the disillusioned anger in full circle.…...

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