Realism in James Joyce's Poems 'Araby' and 'Counterparts'

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About this sample


Words: 1048 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 1048|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

James Joyce observed that ‘in realism you get down to facts on which the world is based; that sudden reality that smashes romanticism into a pulp’. James Joyce clearly conveys this prominently in his two poems ‘Counterparts’ and ‘Araby’.

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Analysis of poems

The poem Counterparts depict the life of a man who is evidently frustrated with his life. He is unhappy in his career and de stresses using alcohol, an unhealthy addiction. He then takes out his frustration on his son, showing us an unhealthy family dynamic. Similar to life experiences the end of the poem isn’t a solution or a fairy tale ending.

The fact in the life of Farrington he yearns for change in his life but doesn’t actively pursue it so is stuck and frustrated is the reality many people experience. Similarly, to Farrington in Counterparts the unnamed boy in ‘Araby’ faces frustrations, unable to fulfil his desires due to go to ‘Araby’ and get Mangan’s sister a gift. The realities of life are very different to the fantasies we have in our heads however undoubtedly reality smashes them into a pulp.

In the poem Counterparts we are faced with the life of a young man, unhappy and frustrated with no real meaning or desire to live the life he lives. We are first shown this when the character is in work, he is first taunted by his boss in work about a report he needs to complete before a client comes in however, Farrington begins to day dream and cannot concentrate on his work so sneaks out of work for a beer, upon returning he is greeted by his boss and hands up uncompleted work. When read his boss isn’t happy with his work and Farrington receives critique, Farrington is irritated and unhappy about work and decides to go back to what got him into trouble in the first place, the repetition in his life troubles him and he’s unable to escape.

These are the facts in which his world is based on, repetition. Despite the daydreams despite how much better he believes the drink will make him feel, there isn’t change throughout the poem his anger continues to build and he takes out his frustration on his son. Unaware to every problem caused was created by him he unmounts his frustration in a beating of his son.

The life of Farrington is represents the statement “in realism you get down to facts on which the world is based; that sudden reality that smashes romanticism into a pulp” he’s unable to process that his actions lead to consequences he encounters various problems throughout the story but fails to realise the problems are created by him.

Another example would be when he pawns his watch to fuel his drinking habit, while out aware he’s spending money but ignores it and continues to become frustrated he then attempts to speak to a woman romantically and is ignored so he continues to become frustrated. He then arrives home and realises his wife is not home and cannot have dinner soon due to the fire being out and releases all his frustrations on the only person he can, his son. The Idea of life is not romanticised in this short story. The reality of Farringtons life is that many people feel stuck and are unable to remove the cycle because they are unaware, they themselves are causing their problems.

Much like in Counterparts, Araby has a strong sense of realism, it conveys the harsh truth of the life of an adolescent in the country. A young unnamed boy falls in love with his sisters’ friend. It is clear that the Mangan doesn’t take much notice to the boy however he frequently fantasises over her and talks about all the things he will get her to get her love. His image of her constantly clouds his mind he thinks of her as a priority. “All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them. I pressed the palms of my hand together until they trembled murmuring: “O love! O love! Many times”.

The young boy becomes consumed with the idea of love or his sisters friend falling in love with him. He distances himself from everything from school lessons to the people in his life. “I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire seemed to me like child’s play.” (James, 1882-1942) This is where the experience the boy haves after the conversation intensifies his infatuation and he becomes obsessed with the idea of buying Mangan’s sister an item in hope of a return in love.

However, his inability to get her anything leaves him almost in despair, unable to carry out his dream his mission ends in disappointment. The experience of the boy suggests frustration and failure much like counterparts both the young boy and farrington are unaware the things the constant thought of a different reality affects the one they live in currently and this contributes to the frustration and anger they both feel.

In the short story the young boy quickly realises that the love he perceived he had for Mangan’s sister was not quite what he may have made it out to be in his head similarly in “Counterparts” the problems Farrington believed he faced were all started by him. James Joyce presents us with the lives of the two people in similar but different world and highlights the frustration and expectations faced with reality.

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This is conveyed throughout the short stories with the disappointment and frustration the characters face with no real resolution to their problems, the closed market being what brings the boy back and to reality in “Araby” or the fire being put out too early and Farrington being unable to have a meal when he returns home and then realising his frustrations on his son. Throughout the stories of the young boy in “Araby” and Farrington in “Counterparts” are later presented with facts that diminish and destroy any romanticised thoughts they have on the world depicted through their obsession and final realisation.


  1. AD English Literature, 2011. Ads English Literature. [Online] Available at:
  2. James, J., 1882-1942. Dubliners. New York: New Amercian Library. Sparknotes, nda. Sparknotes. [Online] Available at:
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Realism In James Joyce’s Poems ‘Araby’ And ‘Counterparts’. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from
“Realism In James Joyce’s Poems ‘Araby’ And ‘Counterparts’.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
Realism In James Joyce’s Poems ‘Araby’ And ‘Counterparts’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2023].
Realism In James Joyce’s Poems ‘Araby’ And ‘Counterparts’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2023 Dec 1]. Available from:
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