The Boarding House,” written by James Joyce, takes place in a small neighborhood located in Dublin, Ireland during the early 1900’s. There were three main characters involved in this story-Mrs. Mooney known as The Madam, who was in charge of the boarding house, Polly who is the daughter of Mrs. Mooney, and Mr. Doran who was a resident of the house.
James Joyce’s, “The Boarding House” has a strange twist. It just so happens, Mrs. Mooney who is very strict and protective of her daughter allows a secret relationship to form between Mr. Doran and Polly. Pretending as though she has no idea of the matter, the inconceivable act of fornication occurs between the two-thus, scarring her daughter’s honor for life. For a man would prefer to marry a woman who has not already been taken by another man. In all likelihood, Mr. Doran was wrong to take advantage of a young naive woman at the precious age of nineteen. Mrs. Mooney was aware Mr. Doran “had been employed for thirteen years in a great Catholic wine-merchant’s office and publicity would mean for him, perhaps, the loss of his job” (James Joyce 40). Upon revealing her knowledge to the couple, she shamelessly informed Mr. Doran she wanted reparation. However, only one type of reparation would satisfy Mrs. Mooney, and that was marriage.
In addition to Mr. Doran, many other men had stayed there at the boarding house and made advances towards Polly which Mrs. Mooney did not approve of, and often she pondered the idea of sending her daughter Polly away to work in typewriting again. However, Mrs. Mooney felt the men were just passing by and were not actually seriously interested in her daughter, therefore paying no attention. However, for some strange reason Mr. Doran was of a different nature. She allowed the relationship to go on without intervention, possibly because she knew he made good money, along with having a secure job, working for a great Catholic wine-merchant.
Furthermore, allowing the affair to escalate between Mr. Doran and her daughter would ultimately result in the act of intercourse. Having done this outside of wedlock caused women to be frowned on by society tremendously. Mrs. Mooney blatantly regarded Mr. Doran as a mere means and not as an end in his own right. Before speaking to Mr. Doran about the incident, Mrs. Mooney “stood and surveyed herself in the pier-glass, with a decisive expression on her great florid face satisfied her and she thought of some mothers she knew who could not get their daughters off their hands. She was sure she would win. To begin with, she had allowed him to live beneath her roof, assuming that he was a man of honor, and he had simply abused her hospitality. He was thirty-four or thirty-five years of age, so that youth could not be pleaded as his excuse; nor could ignorance be his excuse since he was a man who had seen something of the world. He had simply taken advantage of Polly’s youth and inexperience: that was evident” (James Joyce 40).
Nonetheless, it is painfully obvious that Mrs. Mooney selfishly and manipulatively took advantage of Mr. Doran. One does not have the right to use another individual as a way to further themselves without morally accrediting the respect and acknowledgement they deserve as a person. I strongly feel it was despicable what Mrs. Mooney did. One can agree it is always wrong to treat another human being as a mere means and not as an end in his or her own right. As I have stated earlier, I feel Mrs. Mooney treated Mr. Doran as a mere means and not as an end in his own right.
However, one can argue-because Mr. Doran and Polly were both legally consenting adults-that maybe Mrs. Mooney has no right to interfere with the personal lives of either person. Furthermore, one might possibly argue the fact that because Polly is nineteen-years-old, very flirtatious, and single, that this was a very effective means of finding the ideal person to marry her daughter. After all Mr. Doran does have a secure job, he is older and much more mature than the average person Polly’s age.
However, I must indeed counter those arguments by stating, I believe intentionally setting up a person for your own personal advantage is irresponsible and inconsiderate of that person’s feelings. Mr. Doran’s thoughts “Once you are married you are done for” (James Joyce 41). It is evident Mr. Doran was not truly considering marriage, until he thought of the ways he would be ruined once his boss learned of his sinful conduct. Additionally, he would feel guilty if Polly were to put an end to herself, as she mentioned.
Truly, I feel Mrs. Mooney could have prevented this situation had she stopped the affair before it actually took place. However, it is apparent Mrs. Mooney’s intentions were to select who her daughter was to marry, caring very little for what the man felt. It is very clear to me Mrs. Mooney deliberately waited for the perfect gentlemen to come along. Meaning, a man who is easily influenced into having to marry her daughter, that of a person who “is serious, not rakish or loud-voiced like the others” (James Joyce 40). Along with a person of a secure background, one who has saved up a bit of money, in all likelihood-meaning one who has a “good screw” (James Joyce 40.
Nonetheless, I am not insinuating Mrs. Mooney is one-hundred-percent responsible for the affair. Of course the two adults are mostly to blame, however I am simply claiming that Mrs. Mooney’s pretending to be oblivious to the fact that Mr. Doran and her daughter Polly were having an affair, is the reason why it developed into what it did. It could have been stopped, but Mrs. Mooney secretly and manipulatively trapped Mr. Doran into owing reparation and would then anticipate marriage.
By virtue of Mrs. Mooney’s despicable and manipulative actions, a dilemma has occurredPolly cried and threw her arms around Bob Doran’s neck, saying:
“O Bob! Bob! What am I to do? What am I to do at all?” She would put and end to herself, she said (James Joyce 41,42).
There is only one undeniable resolution to this problem; Mr. Doran marries Polly. In addition, I would venture to say Mrs. Mooney’s conspiracy to trap Mr. Doran was successful. Mrs. Mooney is wrong for treating Mr. Doran as a mere means, and not as an end in his own right. Mr. Doran was truly helpless from the beginning when he first moved into the boarding house. Unfortunately for Bob Doran, Mrs. Mooney was successful in her cleverly selfish and manipulative excursion.
“Come down, dear. Mr. Doran wants to speak to you” (James Joyce 43).