Synopsis of Counterparts

Farrington is a clerk in a lawyer’s office. He is lazy and takes long lunch breaks as well as visiting the pub during office hours.  His boss, Mr Alleyne, is furious with him for his behaviour and when he is humiliated by Alleyne in front of a client, Farrington makes an impertinent remark for which he is forced to apologise.  He pawns his watch chain and uses the proceeds for an evening’s drinking with his friends.  He returns home to the reality of his wife and five children.  

Commentary on Counterparts

Miss Parker Irish readers would have recognised this as an English name.  

the tube A speaking tube used for communication between offices in the same building.   

North of Ireland accent This accent is today familiar when politicians from Ulster (Northern Ireland) speak on radio or television.  It was disliked in the south because it was associated with Protestantism and an aggressive or impolite manner of speaking. 

a copy … Bodley and Kirwan Farrington works as a copy clerk (also known as a scrivener) whose principal duty is to make accurate copies of legal documents.  Typewriters were in use by the time the story was written but only handwritten documents were accepted as legally binding.

Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley by Alfred ClintMr Shelley Another English name, with perhaps an allusion to the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1882), who led a life very different from that of Farrington and his colleagues. 

an order on the cashier A note of some kind that will allow Farrington an advance on his salary.

snug A small, intimate bar, often close to the counter of a pub, a refuge for regular customers. 

g.p. Abbreviation for a glass (i.e. half a pint) of porter, a dark beer. 

curate A popular term for assistant barmen, likening them to the curates who assisted parish priests.  

caraway seed Dishes of this strongly flavoured seed would be available on the counter to disguise the smell of alcohol on the breath. This is important for Farrington, who has slipped out of his office during working hours. 

Miss Delacour Not an English name but unusual and sounding foreign, adding the sense that she may be Jewish. Farrington himself is Catholic (although his name is not exclusively Irish) but will be dealing with the business of Protestants, as the name of the firm, Alleyne and Crosbie, suggests. 

hot punches Drinks made from a mixture of whisky or some other alcohol, mixed with spices, lemons, sugar and hot water.

manikin A small man: a word expressive of Farrington’s contempt for his boss. 

bob Slang for one shilling (worth twelve old pennies or one twentieth of a pound). 

the dart How it could be managed.

A crown! A silver coin worth five shillings (worth a quarter of a pound).

six shillings This sum would represent a large proportion of the weekly income of someone in Farrington’s position and would have bought him quite a lot of alcohol. 

evening editions At this time daily papers published an edition late in the day, often bought by workers on their way home.

a half-one A half measure, in this case of whisky.

tailors of malt Measures of malt whisky.  Malt is a pure, unblended whisky and usually more expensive.

after … the eclogues A reference to the pastoral poems of the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BCE), collected under the title Bucolica (i.e. poems of country life).  Virgil’s shepherds are simple and guileless figures whose retorts would be gentle and inoffensive.  O’Halloran’s story highlights the impertinence of Farrington’s remark to his employers.

poisons A slang term for alcoholic drinks.

my nabs A dialect manner of referring to another person in a comically offensive manner.

bevelled A bevel is a slant on the edge of a surface, such as on wood or glass.  The application here is that Flynn and Higgins walk away in a slantwise manner, either because of the direction they take or because they are tipsy and find it difficult to stand up straight.

small Irish and Apollinaris Irish whisky mixed with a well-known brand of German mineral water.

too Irish In this context too generous.

some nice girls An ironic phrase, since the kind of girls they hope to meet are likely to be quite willing to engage in sexual adventures.

tincture Yet another slang term for a drink.  A tincture is literally an extremely small amount and may be used to reassure drinkers that they are not drinking very much.

small hot specials A measure of Irish whiskey served with sugar and hot water.

glass of bitter Half a pint of beer.

sponge A slang term for someone who ‘borrows’ money from friends. 

gab Scots dialect for mouth, like ‘gob’ in English.

Pony up Slang for pay up.

smahan An Irish word meaning a taste or small amount, like ‘tincture’ (see earlier note).

at the chapel In Ireland the word ‘chapel’ is used to describe a Roman Catholic church (as opposed to a Church of Ireland church).  In England chapels tend to be associated with Non-conformist sects, to distinguish their worshippers from Anglican churchgoers.

a Hail Mary A Roman Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, beginning ‘Ave Maria’ (‘Hail Mary’) and echoing the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation of Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:28). 

Investigating Counterparts...

  • Is Joyce making on judgement on Farrington’s bad behaviour, or is he just showing readers a typical Dubliner?
  • Compare Farrington with the drunken Tom Kernan in Grace.
    • In what ways are they similar and in what ways different?
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