The Boarding House

by James Joyce

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Why is Mrs. Mooney so intent on her daughter marrying practically anyone, in The Boarding House by James Joyce?

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In The Boarding House, we are introduced to a harsh woman right from the beginning. Mrs Mooney is a "butcher's daughter" and her abilities with a meat cleaver should not be challenged especially as her own husband chased her in just such a fashion! As far as Mrs Mooney is concerned, the cleaver is a figurative representation of her character. She knows that life is hard and in an unforgiving, judgmental and less-than-perfect environment for her daughter, she knows that it will be difficult for Polly to marry well and secure her future.

it is important to Mrs Mooney as she is all too familiar with the restraints placed upon herself with a husband who ruined her but from whom she can barely escape due to her Catholic beliefs and being forbidden to divorce. She watches Polly and forms her own assessments of the boarders, aware that they are mostly not suitable for her daughter as "none of them meant business." Mrs Mooney knows that Polly cannot make an informed choice and is determined that her daughter will not be a "slavey."

Sincere relationships and romance have no real part in this environment and, as a business woman, Mrs Mooney wants to ensure that Polly gets a better deal than she did herself so it becomes more like a commercial decision for her. Doran, a mild-mannered, older man seems like the best possible option in the circumstances and Mrs Mooney will manipulate him into marriage in the only "maternal" way she can, believing this will protect Polly from a life like her own.

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