The Boarding House – Wilhelm Grimn "Summary"


After a difficult marriage with a drunken husband that ends in separation, Mrs. Mooney opens a boarding house to make a living. Jack, her son and Polly, her daughter live with her in the house, which is occupied by clerks from the city, as well as occasional tourists and musicians. 

 Mrs. Mooney runs a strict and tight business and is known by the lodgers as “The Madam.” Polly, who used to work in an office, now stays at home at her mother’s request, to amuse the lodgers and help with the cleaning. Surrounded by so many young men, Polly ultimately develops a relationship with a rich thirty five years old Mr. Doran. Mrs. Mooney knows about the relationship, but instead of sending Polly back to work in the city, she monitors its developments. Polly becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her mother’s lack of intervention, but Mrs. Mooney waits until “the right moment” to intercede. First she speaks awkwardly with Polly, then arranges to speak with Mr. Doran on a Sunday morning. Mrs. Mooney looks forward to her argument which she intends to “win” by defending her daughter’s honor and convincing Mr. Doran to offer his hand in marriage. Waiting for the time to pass, Mrs. Mooney figures the odds are in her favor, considering that Mr. Doran, who has worked for a wine merchant for thirteen years and gained much respect, will choose the option that least harms his career. Meanwhile, Mr. Doran is in distress. He knows he will be called by Mrs. Mooney. He reviews the difficult confession to his priest that he made on Saturday evening, in which he was harshly accused for his romantic affair. He knows he can either marry Polly or run away, the latter an option that would ruin his sound reputation. Convincing himself that he has been tricked, Mr. Doran bemoans Polly’s unimpressive family, her ill manners, and her poor grammar, and wonders how he can remain free and unmarried. In this vexed moment Polly enters the room and threatens to end her life out of unhappiness. In her presence, Mr. Doran begins to remember how he was trapped by Polly’s beauty and kindness, but he still hesitates about his decision. Uneasy, Mr. Doran comforts Polly and departs for the meeting, leaving her to wait in the room. She rests on the bed crying for a while, neatens her appearance, and then nestles back in the bed, dreaming of her possible future with Mr. Doran. Finally, Mrs. Mooney interrupts the daydream by calling to her daughter. Mr. Doran, according to Mrs. Mooney, wants to speak with Polly. Important Questions :  1. Sketch the character of Mrs. Mooney. Ans : Mrs. Mooney, the main character in the James Joyce story “The Boarding House” is described as “a woman who deals with moral problems as a cleaver deals with meat”. She was a butcher’s daughter who married her father’s foreman. Later she divorced him because she could not withstand his drinking and bullying nature. Taking charge of her daughter Polly and son Jack, she opened a boarding house in Hardwicke Street. She was strong, strict, determined and practical. She knew how to handle matters- when to act and when to remain silent. When reading further in the story, we find that the boarding house is a trap, where Mrs. Mooney is a hunter who’s looking for a decent husband for her daughter Polly within her guests. She is using Polly as bait to catch Mr. Doran, the victim in the story. Mrs. Mooney manipulates Mr. Doran into her trap by using her daughter’s innocence as the bait and Mr. Doran’s innocence as a victim. Mrs. Mooney is a woman of business and Mr. Doran is the perfect victim for her and for Polly. Mr. Doran has also a decent job and he fits perfectly to the economical needs of Mrs. Mooney. Mrs. Mooney also uses their society and religion as a tool to cause Mr. Doran marrying her daughter. She knows that her victim is a religious man, who lives in the religious culture of Dublin that obeys to the rules of the church. He is afraid of the church and he is afraid to lose his job in the Catholic wine merchant office. Thus Mr. Doran had no other option than marrying Polly. Mrs. Mooney is like a watchdog that watches that the prey will not run out of the trap, but will run into it.

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