Dubliners by James Joyce: The Boarding House

In this next short story in Dubliners, a woman, Mrs. Mooney, separates from her husband, the butcher. She has a son and daughter, Jack and Polly. The mother starts a boarding house, and soon figures out that her daughter has become intimate with one of her tenants. The man is thirty-four or thirty-five and Polly is only nineteen. Mrs. Mooney expects a “reparation” from Mr. Doran, the man who has violated Polly Mooney.

For her only on reparation could make up for the loss of her daughter’s honour: marriage. (p. 60)

Marriage is expected of Mr. Doran, or else his entire life, reputation, and survival depends on his fulfilling this expectation.

But delirium passes. He echoed her phrase, applying it to himself. What am I to do? The instinct of the celibate warned him to hold back. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that reparation must be made for such a sin. (p. 62)

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Going down the stairs his glasses became so dimmed with moisture that he had to take them off and polish them. He longed to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed him downstairs step by step. (p. 63)

At one level, I feel for Mr. Doran and wish him freedom from the “determined woman” (p. 56). However, upon reflection I come with off with this statement: we must face the consequences of our actions. Even though Mrs. Mooney’s reparation can be seen as extremely demanding, Mr. Doran did have sexual relations with a woman fifteen to sixteen years his younger outside the confines of marriage. He must respond prudently to the consequences of his sin.

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