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In the stories “Counterparts” and “Araby” Joyce focuses on small moments of human truth related through the theme of loss. Although Joyce writes about the recognition of human truth through loss he does not pursue an exploration of them, merely leaving them to be seen for what they are or could develop into. In the short story “Araby” Joyce relates the loss of a Romantic interpretation of the protagonists view of existence. While in his short story “Counterparts” Joyce explores the mounting and inevitable accelerated downward spiral of the loss of identity. Both stories relate that through loss one can gain a glimpse into a human truth. However Joyce further shows the futile nature of human truth by leaving the protagonists in their own moments of decay.

In the two short stories “Araby” and “Counterparts”, Joyce creates (in the protagonists) isolation through a disjointed creation of existence. This perception of an altered existence leads to an inevitable, created mission in the mind of the protagonist.

The hero from “Araby” relates to the world in Romantic terms. “Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.” (p.198) He has immortalized the object of his affection as a distressed maiden who requires the salvation of a heroic knight.

Similarly the protagonist of “Counterparts,” Farrington, is a lost man without a strong definition of self. The only insight given into his portrayed character is that of a “strong man” (p. 232) in which he prides himself. The opinion of his friends is how he essentially defines himself. Farrington was not able to define his own self so he interprets and becomes his friends definition, which therefore creates his own existence. An existence founded on that of his society.

In the story “Araby,” Joyce makes two references to blindness in the first three lines. These are a description of the physical area in which the protagonist lives. “North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street…” (p. 197) This creates a sense that the protagonist lives in a self-imposed bubble separating him from the outside world.

As the story opens we get a quick glimpse at Mr. Farrington and his crumbling identity, “His eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were dirty.” (p.225) Similar to Araby this suggests a sense of isolation from the outside world, since the window panes from which he perceives the world are soiled.

“I will bring you something” (p.199) this is the Romantic mission the protagonist of “Araby” views he must quest for in order to win his unrequited love.

Farrington has closed himself to the outside world not allowing for opportunity to relate to it. Self is defined by the way one relates and feels about the outside world. Farrington is shown as insular “I might as well be talking to the wall as talking to you.” (P.225) says his boss Mr. Allyene of Farrington. Farrington is a lost man who has no definition of self. Therefore he seeks consolation in escape, through his drinking; “he felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat.”(p.226) Like the Romantic mission of the hero from “Araby,” Farrington is on his own mission of escape.

Joyces portrayal of loss of identity parallels that of a snowball rapidly gaining force and momentum.

He does this through a series of events over the period of a day. The three specific events he mentally reviews before his inevitable decay. The first symbol that marks Farringtons decay, occurs directly after his antagonistic encounter with his boss. Promptly

Through the pursuit of the protagonists prescribed mission, Joyce shows the prevalence of human truth, through decay. Specifically that of the decay of external and internal foundation, coupled with the loss of dream and desire.

Loss of foundations loss of magic loss of society * friends external

Realization of tainted dream and desire

Loss of truth and pride dterioration of internal foundation

The hero has created the perception that Araby is his Camelot, the magical place which holds the key to his love. Araby the “building which displayed the magical name.” (p. 201) However it is here that the protagonist views the world of truth.

“A few people were people were gathered about the stalls which were still open.” (p. 201) The activity surrounding Araby is what embodies the magic of it. Therefore the closing of the booths represents the elimination of activity, and the elimination of the magic that the activity embodies for the protagonist. For magic is a base in the external foundation of the protagonists created Romantic existence.

Farrington begins devising a way in which he can get money so he can “quench his thirst” (p.228) His pocket watch is the financial answer to his thirst. Selling his watch is symbolic for Farringtons shirking and escape of responsibility in the face of adversity. “They could all go to hell, because he was going to have a good night of it.” (p.229) The watch is measurement devise, a tool. The pawning of the watch is symbolic for Farrington disconnecting himself from time, which is a standard of society. Society in itself is a base in the external creation of Farringtons existence, because Farrington defines himself by what his friends (society) define him as.

Now the protagonist of Araby recognizes that this isn’t the land of answers and truths he characterized it as. “She seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty” (p. 201) The grail he was seeking did not exist, for he realized that giving a present from the bizarre to her was not the Romantic answer he perceived it as. “I knew my stay was useless” (p. 201) The protagonists recognition of human truth is that the world does not exist in the Romantic terms he perceived it in. This inevitably leads to a decay of dream and desire.

The second symbolic event was with the woman in the bar. Farrington created her as an icon, a desired dream “the world seemed to melt away as he gazed at her.” (p.231) This is symbolic for his decaying existence, with a “Oh pardon!” (p.231) as she brushed against him, his dream walked away never answering his desiring gaze. At this Farrington’s frustrations began to mount as he was left to fester in his own unfulfilled desire.

The loss of internal foundation occurs in “Araby” as the protagonist listens to a conversation of a worker. “O, I never said such a thing! O, but you did! O, but I didn’t!” Our hero recognizes this conversation, which contains flirtatious undertones, as impure. Thusly a loss of the pure nature of Araby occurs to the protagonist. Purity is an internal foundation to the protagonists Romantic being. For the purity of love is what drove the protagonist to Araby in the first place.

The third and final devastation of Farrington is that of the lost arm wrestle. One of the few points of pride Farrington had left was his reputation as a “strong man.” (p. 232) For this reputation is symbolic for Farringtons sense of pride. He is respected for his strength as his friends “called on Farrington to uphold the national honor.” (p.231) The loss of the arm wrestle epitomizes Farringtons loss of pride, “All the indignities in his life enraged him…” (p.228) “He felt humiliated and disconnected;” (p.232) Farrington’s sense of pride was his strongest internal foundation. For once he lost this internal foundation, he was sent to his climatic point of decay.

In both Counterparts and Araby Joyce builds the theme of loss to a climatic point where in there is a moment of human truth however the summit of the mountain is inconclusive for the stories end in the final moment of decay.

The ultimate point of decay of self in Joyces Counterparts is of the protagonist Farrington’s emptied shell filled with anger which he displaces on his son because he “let the fire out!” (p.233) Paralleling that of the fire of self, Farrington let extinguish. This loss of Farringtons self Parallels that of the loss Joyce portrays in Araby in the collapse of the protagonists Romantic perception of existence for as the lights go out in his once perceived Camelot, he sees himself “as a creature driven and derided by vanity.” (p.202) However in both cases the protagonists are left to wallow in their own decayed state of existence. In Counterparts Farrington is left in the ultimate state of a deserted sense of self, shown in the beating of his child. Similarily the main character in Araby is left in what he precieved to be the end of a Romantic journey in which holds the key to winning over the damsel. However as the story ends the protagonist is left “gazing up into complete darkness” (p.202) with a lost perception of existence.

In the short story “Araby” Joyce relates the loss of a Romantic interpretation of the protagonists view of existence. While in his short story “Counterparts” Joyce explores the mounting and inevitable accelerated downward spiral of the loss of identity. Both stories relate that through loss one can gain a glimpse into a human truth. Joyce further shows the futile nature of human truth by leaving the protagonists in their own moments of decay. This is shown by the “complete darkness” (p.202) in the Romantically destined goal of the protagonist from “Araby,” and the paralleling beating of Farrington’s son.

In these stories Joyce focuses on small moments of human truth related through the theme of loss.


Editors; Scholes, Robert, Comely R. Nancy, Klaus, H. Carl, Staines, David Elements of Literature. Toronto, Ontario; Oxford University Press, 1990.

Joyce, James “Araby”

Editors: Landy, S. Alice, Martin, Dave The Heath Introduction to Literature. Vancouver, B.C.; D.C. Heath Canada Ltd., 1982.

Joyce, James “Counterparts”

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