26 pages 52 minutes read

James Joyce

The Boarding House

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1914

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Character Analysis

Mrs. Mooney

While “The Boarding House” revolves around the relationship of Polly to Mr. Doran, Mrs. Mooney is the protagonist. She is introduced at the very beginning of the story, setting the reader up to watch her pull the strings in her daughter’s relationships to gain wealth and status for her family. The mention of Mr. Mooney’s spiral into domestic abuse and alcoholism after a seemingly stable marriage underscores the importance of marrying well for women in Dublin. The experience foreshadows Mrs. Mooney’s determination to make sure Polly’s future marriage is more advantageous.

The introductory information that her father was a butcher establishes Mrs. Mooney as a working-class archetype. Using the butcher’s shop to buy her own boarding house demonstrates that she has achieved social mobility where many women could not, especially without a husband. Her tenacity is demonstrated, as she sees a further opportunity to climb the social ladder in Polly’s relationship with Mr. Doran.

Because her role in the story is more prominent than the other characters, Mrs. Mooney becomes the protagonist and antagonist simultaneously, due to her desire to force Mr. Doran to propose to Polly.