James Joyce's Counterparts is a short story about alcoholism and its effects on the behavior and conduct of the affected individuals in the society. Mr. Farrington the main character is a man who is affected by addiction and therefore cannot effectively perform his duties both in the office and at home as it will be expected of him. Joyce uses different forms of irony in counterparts to highlight a man who deviates from the expected of him as a reliable worker and a loving and responsible family man to a careless worker and irresponsible family man affected by alcoholism.
The story begins with irony which brings out the theme of the story. Mr. Allen calls for Farrington to his office and asks him why he has not made a copy of the contract of Bodley and Kirwan as well as the reason for his repeated complaints at work. Situational irony is expressed in the context whereby Farrington is expected to competently do his work and complete making the copy of the contract between Bodley and Kirwan in time. But ironically, he does not do so as expected leading to Mr. Alleyne to complain. May I ask you why you haven't made a copy of that contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by four o'clock."(line19). After Alleyne is done with him, Farrington stays in Alleyne's office absent-minded thinking of having a night drinking. In ironic twist, he does not think about what is expected of him; to have the contract copied as ordered by Mr. Alleyne who is the boss. Joyce uses situational irony to bring out the theme of alcoholism and addiction in the story.
The writer uses verbal irony to show Harrington's laziness and carelessness at work Farrington, you take things easy!(Line 41) .After Farrington has been ordered to go and do his work and complete copying the contract bearing in mind that he has run out of time, he ironically goes out drinking instead. Dramatic irony is also exhibited in Farringtons handling of his office work. He has not finished copying the contract and has been ordered to finish it before four o'clock. But Mr. Shelley, the chief clerk, is not aware that Farrington has not finished his work and that he has been ordered to finish it before four o'clock that evening. Yet we see Farrington going out to drink. Joyce also uses dramatic irony to express the theme of alcoholism since the readers know that Farrington has felt the urge to drink He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat(line 53)which makes him rise from his desk and go out to drink. On the other hand, his colleague, the senior clerk is not aware that Farrington is alcohol-thirsty when he stares at him inquiringly when he is moving out prompting Farrington to signal to him his intentions. It's all right, Mr. Shelley,"(line 56). He says this while gesturing for Shelley to interpret his journey. Here, the reader knows that all is not right.
The author uses situational irony to bring out the fact that Farrington is unable to do legal work. As a clerk in the law firm, Farrington is expected to know that every detail in a document is important, but he instead presents the document to Mr. Alleyne with the last two letters missing hoping that Mr. Alleyne will not discover that the last two pages were missing. Joyce complements situational irony with dramatic irony in the same context where the readers know that Farrington willingly omitted the last two letters in the Delacour Correspondence, but he denies and lies that he doesn't know what Mr. Alleyne is talking about when he asks for the missing letters. "I know nothing about any other two letters"(line124), was the reply from Farrington. The author also sarcastically brings out verbal irony when Alleyne asks Farrington whether he is taking him for a fool.do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter fool?"(line127). In the real sense, he was mocking Farrington. The verbal irony continues to be exhibited in the context where Farrington tries to defend himself against Mr. Alleyne, "I don't think, sir," he said, "that that's a fair question to put to me."(line130). Farrington knows that Mr. Alleyne is right to ask if he is taken for a fool because he is the one lying and pretending that he doesn't know anything about the missing letters.
Farrington being a family man is expected to be a responsible husband and father, but on the contrary, he is not. He spends all his money drinking with friends and even pawns his watch to raise drinking money after he fails to get an advance from the cashier. Upon reaching home, Farrington is expected to be received by his wife with his dinner ready and to have a rest, but ironically, his wife is away at the chapel, there is no dinner for him, and it's cold at home. When he went in by the side- door he found the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. (Line278). As a father, Farrington is expected to show love and compassion to his children, but he instead shows no love to his son Tom by beating him up.
James Joyce has used ironies in his short story Counterparts to bring out the character of a careless, incompetent, irresponsible worker, father, and husband. Various forms of ironies used in the story express Farrington as a man who has no qualities to do legal work, irresponsible at home and is a victim of alcoholism.
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