In The Boarding House, the reader is introduced to Mrs Mooney who escapes her drunken and abusive husband and sets up business for herself, caring and providing for her children. In her own way, she protects Polly,her daughter and Jack,her son from their father. He is a "shabby stooped little drunkard" who even chased his wife with a meat cleaver before she finally left him.
Mrs Mooney wants nothing to do with her husband and, despite setting up her business - the boarding house - she does not assist her husband in any way so that he gets himself a job as "a sheriff's man." He then waits for work to come his way.
Polly goes to work as a typist in the corn-factor's office but is bothered by a "disreputable sheriff's man" who is obviously her father, although it is not stated. This man bothers her at work, "asking to be allowed to say a word to his daughter." Mrs Mooney is compelled to stop Polly working there and sets her up at home doing housework.
Mrs Mooney will do everything in her power, including manipulating Bob Doran, as will become clear later, to protect Polly from all that her father represents and to save her from the same fate as herself.