In "The Boarding House," classify the central characters of Mrs. Mooney and Polly in terms of character types.Classify Polly and Mrs. Mooney in terms of protagonist, antagonist, major, minor,...

In "The Boarding House," classify the central characters of Mrs. Mooney and Polly in terms of character types.

Classify Polly and Mrs. Mooney in terms of protagonist, antagonist, major, minor, dynamic, static, round, and flat.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In James Joyce's short story "The Boarding House," Mrs. Mooney is a major character because she is the protagonist. [Protagonist: the character whom the author focuses on and through whom the narrative is often focalized (directing the focus of reader attention).] Polly is in some sense a second protagonist, and therefore a major character, since the story cannot happen without her and because she is central to everything Mrs. Mooney does in the boarding house after Polly takes up with Mr. Doran. However, it is wimportant to note that critics classify Mrs. Mooney as one of Joyces's "monstrous" mothers who feature prominently in The Dubliners.

Even though Polly has such little direct involvement in the narrative, Joyce paints her as a living individual, a dynamic character with round qualities by giving her psychological qualities ("Polly knew that she was being watched ... There had been no open complicity"); a complex personality ("She sang: I'm a ... naughty girl"); and motivation ("Polly had been made awkward [because]... she did not wish it to be thought that in her wise innocence she had divined the intention behind her mother's tolerance"); and by giving various stages of progress through the story, stages that are evident after Polly is taken out of typewriting.

Similarly, Joyce has constructed Mrs. Mooney as a dynamic character with round qualities for the same reasons. Mrs. Mooney has psychological qualities ("She would give him neither money nor food nor house-room"); a complex personality ("She governed the house cunningly and firmly"); and motivation ("She watched the pair and kept her own counsel."); and she progresses through various stages in the development of her character that begin with her own marriage and liberation and end with her hope that she "wins" and her triumphant announcement: "Mr. Doran wants to speak to you."

In contrast, Mr. Mooney is a minor character and in some senses the antagonist since his harmful interaction with Mrs. Mooney precipitated, or incited, the action. Additionally, though he is a well-described character, he is neither round nor dynamic--his psychology, his personality and his motives are narrowly defined and he is left sitting in the bailiff's office signed up as a sheriff's man waiting for an offer of work.

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