Characterization in “The Boarding House”

In Joyce Jones’s short story, “The Boarding House,” characterization is a key factor. Mrs. Mooney, a divorced wife, was considered to be a woman who was very determined by the author. As the protagonist of this short story, Mrs. Mooney firmly takes control of her own life, as well as her daughter Polly’s. She successfully planned to secure her daughter in a comfortable marriage in which shows her character is a bit ambiguous. It seems as though she demands equality between men and women but also manipulates relationships to rid herself of her daughter. The short story reveals Mrs. Mooney’s character is justified throughout her actions in the plot.

After a bad marriage with a drunk, Mrs. Mooney opens a boarding house to make a living. In this short story, her tenants refer to her as, “Madam.” The author implies that she is respected through that statement. Having given her daughter the opportunity to be around so many men, Mrs. Mooney watches in silent approval as Polly begins to see a shy middle aged business man. In the beginning of the story, Mrs. Mooney, having learned the details of the situation from her daughter, prepares to firmly confront the lover, Mr. Doran. It appears as though she is “determined” to make him marry her daughter (Joyce 413), Polly because of social standards, and the pressure of religion and the economy.

This story also describes a clear angle of shallow relationships people drift into and end up being trapped within the situation. Mrs. Mooney, herself had a hard life and a bad marriage and started her own business that was built with determination. The author attempts to indicates that she must have very few illusions about love or marriage. She is only concerned with getting her children settled, ...

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...gainst the surface.” (Arp 161)

Works Cited

Arp, Thomas R. and Greg Johnson. “Characterization.” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound,

and Sense. 10th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2009. Print.

Jones, Joyce. “The Boarding House.” Rpt. In Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson, Perrines

Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense. 10th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2009. Print.

Parascandola, Louis, and Maria McGarrity. "'I'm a ... Naughty Girl': Prostitution and Outsider

Women in James Joyce's 'The Boarding House' and Eric Walrond's 'The Palm Porch.'." CLA Journal 50.2 (Dec. 2006): 141-161. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 118. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Literature Resource Center. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.

Woolf, Virginia. "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown." Collected Essays. Ed. Leonard Woolf. Vol. 1.

London: Hogarth, 1966. 319-337. 4 vols. 1966-67.
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