Dubliners The Boarding House: Questions and Answers

James Joyce

The Boarding House: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is implied in the fact that Polly couldn’t continue to work in the corn-factor’s office?

2. Why is Mrs. Mooney so intent on her daughter marrying practically anyone?

3. How innocent was Polly’s initial approach to Bob Doran?

4. Interpret the statement: “She was an outraged mother.”

5. The “short twelve” Mrs. Mooney hopes to catch after her conversation is the abbreviated noon-time mass. What’s the symbolism implied in this?

6. Bob seeks religious counsel after the affair has become serious. What is the irony in this?

7. Why is Polly’s brother physically described before Bob talks to Mrs. Mooney?

8. Why does Joyce continually refer to Bob’s glasses becoming dim with moisture?

9. Why is the maid’s name Mary?

10. Why does Polly forget “what she had been waiting for”?

Answers
1. Due to her loose morals, she probably began a liaison with the “disreputable sheriff’s man.”

2. Without a husband, a young woman had absolutely no value and no rights at this time in society. In Mrs. Mooney’s eyes, a poor match was better than no husband at all.

3. Not very innocent at all. The clothing she wore (combined with her history as a flirt) leads us to believe it was calculated.

4. If Mrs. Mooney were outraged, she would have acted
sooner and prevented the affair. She is merely using her mock outrage as leverage against Bob.

5. The spiritual content of the mass means nothing to her, which is why she hopes to catch the shortened version of it. There’s further irony in her hoping to attend mass after she’s prostituted her daughter.

6. Bob doesn’t care about the state of his soul so much as he does about his status at work.

7. Jack is physically threatening and Bob fears him; this is another reason why he’ll acquiesce to Mrs. Mooney’s demand.

8. Bob so fears the consequences of his discussion with Mrs. Mooney that he is close to tears.

9. In this house of mock prostitution, it’s ironic that the maid shares the same name as the Blessed Virgin.

10. Like Bob, Polly has no free will; she isn’t waiting for anything because the decision is completely in her mother’s hands.