Dubliners by James Joyce: Counterparts

This short story in Dubliners outlines the night of a man named Farrington. We see his last day as a copying clerk–he has some witticism that causes his loss of employment. He constantly, during the day at work, as well as after he is fired, finds himself drawn to drink. He loves his boys at the bar and hates his wife and children. The last scene shows his repressed rage released in the beating of his son. This paragraph stood out to me:

A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He had lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said Pardon! his fury nearly choked him. (p. 93)

This passage comes after we have seen all of these things happen. So hearing that this is “A very sullen-faced man,” as opposed to “Farrington,” is an interesting literary technique. It puts our main character at a distance.

But what this passage illuminates for me is that Farrington is still thirsty. Farrington has drank enought (six shillings worth!), and yet he is still the thirsty. When will his thirst be satisfied? How will his thirst be satisfied? He thinks that going to the pub will satisfy him. But the porter’s always run out!

What will satisfy us? When will it satisfy us? How will it satisfy us?

Christ is our only satisfaction, yet we search for an object for our longing in things like reputation, alcohol, and money. But the only way for our inconsolable desire to be filled is to hear the Word of God. This is what G.K. Chesterton was thinking of when he spoke:

Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.

God can satisfy.


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