The Dubliners Review: The Boarding House By James Joyce

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The seventh story of the Dubliners shows some improvement in Joyce’s ability as a writer. We actually get three different points of view in this story which is refreshing considering the fact that most of the stories up to this point have been first person accounts and often times we never even got a characters name. Researching this it seems that people believe this is the first hints of the type of format that was present in Ulysses, Joyce’s alleged masterpiece. I haven’t read Ulysses yet but I hope it’s good. I already despise The Portrait of the Artist as a Young man and I haven’t even read it.

It’s difficult to imagine a time in which Joyce wasn’t held up to be some literary legend or some kind of genius. The reason Joyce left Ireland in 1909 never to return was because he felt Ireland was too strict for him, seeing him as some kind of pervert. In the Boarding House we get a glimpse of this culture that was so toxic and so smothering that it forced Joyce into exile. Then again Joyce is a projecting cunt so we ought to take some salt with that sugar. Jesus Christ what an awful metaphor. Salt with Sugar? Sounds like something Oscar Wilde would drink.

So as you can tell by the title the story revolves around a boarding house, or some kind of inn. There’s three main characters; Mrs. Mooney, her Daughter Polly and a guy called Mr. Doran. Mrs. Mooney is a divorced/annulled woman who left her husband because he grew into a violent drunk after the death of his father. She’s the owner of the boarding house and is such a rigid cunt that the lads who stay there refer to her as “The Madam” its worth noting that the lads who stay there are mostly tourists, foreign workers, town clerks or narcissistic assholes who refer to themselves artistes. How the fuck do you even pronounce artistes? Is it just artists with an “e” at the end? Do they insist everyone end their profession with a “tes” with italics and all or do they have a shimmer of humility? Fucking Joyce and Oscar Wilde with their dumb fucking words and italics and exclamation points. Write a better sentence you wonky eyed cunt.

Anyway, Polly worked as some kind of receptionist or something but her father kept coming around the office looking to talk, so the mother took her out and had her work in the inn where she helped cook and clean and flirted with the men. Like that was a crucial part of her job. The Ma essentially took her out of a comfortable job because she didn’t want her father (who got a steady job) to have anything to do with her and then proceeded to slightly whore her out. Slightly. Possibly another reason they called her The Madam, but unfortunately she’s not running a whorehouse. No, that would be a fun read. Of course all this flirting going on she eventually starts riding this guy (Mr. Doran) and the mother doesn’t interject, she waits for the ideal amount of time before she confronts the two and forces them to marry.

So our man Mr. Doran essentially stuck his dick in a bear trap here. He can’t leave her because that would be dishonorable to both him and the family, diminishing his social position and potentially losing his job. On the other hand he really doesn’t want to get married. Marriage sucks. You have to share things and talk to the same person day in, day out. You have to share a bed with a person who you might not even like and the mother in law would always be pestering you about knocking her daughter up. It’s fucking shit. Why can’t you just have a quick curt, possibly a good fingering and be done with it? See her down the pub a month later and ignore her completely? That’s the dream like, for both men and women.

Though of course you’d have to change it about if you’re a woman, you can’t just finger a man like. Well, you can. But it isn’t recommended. Especially with those acrylic nails. You could cause some real damage internally, possibly an infection and due to the chemical residue- almost definitely blood poisoning. Why do women wear those weird long acrylic nails? I mean they’re impractical, it doesn’t help you type, it doesn’t increase your grip, they’re too brittle so you can’t kill things with them so they’re clean fucking useless for hunting. Style I suppose? I don’t know, I mean they just seem too big to me. And considering literally every woman I know (and I mean literally every woman) likes dogs and enjoys petting dogs surely they’d consider getting shorter nails as to not agitate the poor bastard? You could take a layer of fur off with one of those fuckers.

Then again perhaps it’s not about style or comfort or any practical reasons, perhaps it’s some kind of subconscious establishment of dominance against others, particularly other women. Yeah, you could gouge a few eyes out with them. Rupture a few blood vessels while still looking on fleek. Did I just say fleek? Oh God, I’m gonna go hang myself.

A lot of people think that if women were in charge of everything then there wouldn’t be any wars or conflicts because almost all of them are caused by men. I vehemently disagree with this, this assumption that women are inherently peaceful and rational like some Paradise Island/Themyscira bullshit is ludicrous. I grew up with three sisters, I believe that women can be as vicious and vindictive as any man ever could. I remember one time one of my big sister’s (Naomi) was told to clean her room and she really didn’t fucking want to so she forced me and my other sister (Sophie) into the room and locked us in. She made us clean up the room for her by turning it into some kind of game. Like, the extraordinary lengths of her sheer laziness is truly remarkable. She could have  cleaned it up by herself in like half an hour but no, she had to invent a game to convince her six year old brother and eight year old sister to clean her own fucking room in like two fucking hours. Is it laziness if you have to work to be lazy?

That room would later on became my bedroom when she finished school and left for Uni. I’ve had it for like, maybe eight or ten years now. The other week she was back home and she came in while I was sleeping (it was like two o’clock in the afternoon) and just laid down on the carpet and stayed there, checking her facebook. She refused to leave so I had to get up and drag her out of the room by her feet, kicking and screaming. She’s twenty fucking something now, I can’t mind. What were we talking about?

Ah yes, guy stuck his dick in a bear trap. So Mr. Doran is panicking cause he’s in quite the pickle, or his pickle was in quite the something. There’s this bit in the story where he recalls going to Confession and the priest is asking about everything in excruciating detail. It reminded me about that Priest from the Savage Eye; “Tell us your sins, you’re one big sinning machine.”

Anyway, he’s in his room and he’s going through this paranoid train of thought. We find out he’s a bit of a posh cunt. One of the reasons he doesn’t want to marry her is because she’s socially below him, her father is a violent drunk and apparently her bad grammar makes her vulgar. I’m not kidding, that’s a genuine problem he has with her; “She was a little vulgar; sometimes she said ‘I seen’ and ‘If I had’ve known.’ But what would grammar matter if he really loved her?” Lad, you don’t love her. You’re a thirty five year old office clerk who fucked a nineteen year old, it’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet or Salt and Vinegar or Trump and Putin.

Anyway, he’s considering if he’ll ever actually like the doll after they marry cause she has essentially weighed him down. Then she comes into the room and she’s upset and she cries on his shoulder and he’s reminded that at some point he actually did like her, she is quite a nice girl. After all, the bear trap did look quite fuckable. Then he gets called down by the mother for a bollocking, down the stairwell he passes Polly’s brother (Jack) and he recalls that one of the lads once said he thought Polly was quite sexually objectifiable in his presence and he threatened to beat him to a bloody pulp, so the brother in law seems nice.

The story ends with Polly crying alone in Mr. Dorans room, when he leaves she cleans her self up, re-arranges her hair, has a day dream that we’re not privy to, looks back on some memories that we are again not privy to and is genuinely content. Her mother then calls her down and she remembers the guy with the bear trap on his dick.

The story itself isn’t bad, it’s actually a great example of how sexually repressive Ireland was. The Catholic church’s influence undoubtedly played a role in how marriage was seen at the time. Divorce was frowned upon but in the case of Mrs. Mooney she was allowed an annulment, meaning the marriage never happened.  That may still have some social influence and may explain why the Mother is quite a rigid person. Everyone is watching and judging her so she’s unable to move too far, it’s quite claustrophobic. But she is a schemer. She waited just the right amount of time before interrupting her daughter’s affair, forcing them to be married. Undoubtedly if she were seeing a poor boy or worse, an artiste, she’d have smacked her on the back of the head and told him to get to fuck. But because Mr. Doran was financially reliable and otherwise quite respectable he was the perfect person she could dump Polly on. It’s quite impressive, twisted and undeniably connivingly bitchy but impressive none the less.

As for Doran there really isn’t much to say about him. He recalls that he’s fucked about in his youth, being edgy he’s said things like “There is no God” and he’s had the craic. But he falls back into line, he goes to mass, he goes to work. He fulfills his duties and there’s nothing really extraordinary about him outside of his guilt and feeling of entrapment. Polly is potentially a bit more complex, some interpretations present her as just young and naive, flirtatious and possibly a little bit dopey considering she spent the last few lines of the story in a daydream during a significant life crisis. Other interpretations shows that she may be as conniving as her mother. She could have seduced Doran not because she liked him but because she wanted to force him to marry her, her being thoughtful and nice was all a ploy to lure his dick into the bear trap. At the end of the story she comes into the room crying, thus confusing Doran’s feelings as to whether or not he should like her. Once he leaves she stops crying, cleans up and is otherwise not so bothered. So there’s that possibility.

There’s really nothing much here. Some people have cited Joyce’s use of colours, specifically yellow and brown when talking about the clock and the bread and the general interior of the location. These colours are supposed to represent decay, possibly the decay of the social fabric due to the Church’s influence but I don’t know. Sometimes the curtains are just blue because they’re fucking blue. The story isn’t bad or confusing so I imagine a foreign reader could enjoy it, I thought it was alright. Honestly if the Dubliners contained stories with multiple perspectives and better developed characters I think it’d be a hell of a lot better. But that’s just my opinion.

I don’t think the world would be a radically better place if women were in control. I mean yeah there’d be less human rights violations against women for sure but there’d still be conflicts over resources, there’d still be prejudices based on history, people would still be dehumanized and oppressed and there’d still be a lot of things that suck in the world. Then again maybe there’d be less fighting and more shit talking, like everyone is nice to little Montenegro when they’re around but once their back is turned all the other countries would just start slabbering. A polite yet savage world. Perhaps that would be better, then again we’d hear things like “Oh my God, Russia is such a Bitch” and “Sicily is such a little slut” and I imagine I’d get sick of this international fakeness pretty quickly.

At least with men they’re too dumb to be fake. In my life I know men that if left to their own devices would accidentally beat each other death. The world doesn’t go out with a bang, but with a whimper. The whimper of course being an atrocious Dungiven accent; “Sir“. We’re shit at dying.

 

 

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