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

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

sesh | Student

There are several reasons why Mrs.Mooney wanted to make some man marry her daughter.

Importantly, Joyce elucidates Polly's behaviour.

I’m a . . . naughty girl.

You needn’t sham:
You know I am.

Polly was a slim girl of nineteen; she had light soft hair and a small full mouth. Her eyes, which were grey with a shade of green through them, had a habit of glancing upwards when she spoke with anyone, which made her look like a little perverse madonna.

Polly had had affairs with the boarders occationally, but none has intended to marry her. i.e. her manners are not that appealing (poor grammar, she is a little vulger) and her family is not good enough. (parents' seperation, mother's boarding house with a 'certain faim')

Polly, of course, flirted with the young men but Mrs. Mooney, who was a shrewd judge, knew that the young men were only passing the time away: none of them meant business.

It was very risky about a girl. Mrs. Mooney, as a mother wanted her daughter to marry well.

Mrs. Mooney has seperated from her abusive and alchoholic husband. As a woman she had to face so many problems and she, doesn't want her daughter to face such a situation. Therefore she wants to find someone and secure Polly's life.


Read the study guide:
The Boarding House

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question