Humiliated by his boss (Mr. Alleyne) at the law firm in which he works, a copy clerk named Farrington pawns his watch and spends the money on a night of drinking in Dublin pubs. Afterward, he goes to his house in the suburbs, where he vents his rage by beating one of his five children (Tom).
The line "He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got drunk" sums up Farrington's pervasive impotence. The beating of his young son in the story's final scene dramatizes his relationship to his children and, probably, his wife. Like "Eveline," this story shows how intractable Irish paralysis seemed to Joyce — impossible to ameliorate, much less escape altogether.
As ever, the author subtly holds the English and the Roman Catholic Church accountable. Farrington's coworkers at the law firm of Crosbie and Alleyne all have English or at least non-Irish names (Parker, Higgins, Shelley, Delacour), the woman who snubs him in the back room at O'Halloran's says "Pardon!" with a London accent, and just before arriving at home in Sandymount, Farrington passes the barracks where English soldiers live. More than in any Dubliners story yet, Ireland seems here to be a country under extended occupation by foreigners.
In the last scene of "Counterparts," Farrington's son reports that Mrs. Farrington is "out at the chapel." When Farrington begins to beat him, the boy desperately offers "I'll say a Hail Mary for you . . . " If not precisely to blame for Ireland's misery, the church certainly appears powerless against the forces paralyzing the culture.
the tube a machine for communicating within a building.
an order on the cashier official permission for an advance on wages.
snug a small private room or booth in a public house.
g.p. a glass (half-pint) of porter.
caraway a white-flowered biennial herb of the umbel familiy, with spicey, strong-smelling seeds. The seeds, when chewed, were thought to hide the smell of alcohol, and thus were offered to customers by turn-of-the-century Dublin bars.
manikin a little man; dwarf.
instanter without delay; immediately.
the dart the solution.
stood . . . a half-one bought a half measure of alcohol.
the eclogues short pastoral poems, often in the form of a dialogue between two shepherds; the most famous are by the Latin poet Virgil.
my nabs (slang) my friend or acquaintance.
Ballast Offices the location of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, where the father of Gabriel Conroy (protagonist of "The Dead") is said to have worked.
Irish and Apollinaris whiskey and soda.
too Irish (slang) exceedingly generous.
chaffed teased good naturedly.
tincture a trace; a smattering.
small hot specials whiskey mixed with water and sugar.
bitter bitter, strongly hopped ale.
stood to bought for.
smahan a smattering; a smidgin.
barracks buildings on Shelbourne Road for housing British soldiers.