The Boarding House



This is a story of adolescence. The story is based on Joyce’s experience of growing up in Dublin, Ireland. This story is an example of a story with a ghost chapter. So it demands and active participation from the readers to construct the missing part of the story. Readers are required to be creative and fill in the gap left by the writer in the story.

The story presents the life of a butcher’s family in Dublin. Mrs. Mooney was a butcher’s daughter, but she had married her father’s head servant, when her father died Mr. Mooney became a drunkard and started creating trouble in the house. He regularly fought with his wife in front of the customers and also brought stale meat. So they lost their business. In same occasion when he was drunk he even chased his wife with a knife and Mrs. Mooney had to spend the night in the neighbors’ house. After that she went to the priest and got divorce from her husband.

She started living independently with her two children, Jack and Polly. Her husband became a poor useless fellow and waited for a job as a sheriff’s man, but she opened a boarding house, with whatever amount was remaining from the butcher’s business. Many tourists and young working man used to live in her house. They used to call her ‘Madam’ and paid 15 shillings a week for board and lodging. Her son was quite social but vulgar. Every Sunday nights there used to be singing and dancing in the boarding house. Polly also used to sing and dance with the young man.

Polly, who was a slim girl of about nineteen, used to flirt with the young man. Mrs. Mooney wanted her to have a serious affair with one of the young men, but she knew that none of the men were serious about Polly. They did not have any intention of marrying her. But after sometimes she noticed that a kind of affair was going on between Polly and Mr. Doran, a clerk. Mrs. Mooney didn’t interfere until she thought that the time was right. She was very cunning. So she planned carefully to make Mr. Doran marry Polly.

One day she had a frank talk with her daughter. After she wished to have a serious talk with Mr. Doran. It was a bright Sunday she asked marry her servant to call Mr. Doran. Doran was nervous and in a dilemma. He also regretted his affair with a loose charactered girl like Polly. But he knew that he had no option than marrying Polly. When he was lost in his own thought, Polly entered the room. She was also nervous and cried in his arms. He consoled her by saying that everything would be alright. At that time Mary informed Mr. Doran that Mrs. Mooney wished to see him. He arranged his dress and went downstairs to meet Mrs. Mooney.

When he was going downstairs, he met Jack and remembered that he was sensitive about his sister. In the meantime Polly waited eagerly in the room dreaming about her future with Mr. Doran. She was lost in her own thought, when Mrs. Mooney herself came to inform her that Mr. Doran wanted to have a talk with her about their marriage.

Important Questions and Answers:

1. Argue in favor of some course of action in a situation that consider an injustice. Racial injustice is one possible area, or unfairness to any minority, or to women, children, the old, ex-convicts, the handicapped, the poor. If possible, narrow your subject to a particular incident or a local situation on which you can write knowledgeably.

Ans: Despite the fact that the human society has been making progress in science, literature etc over the years, we are unable to dispense with some to the narrow concepts. A glance of the newspapers is sufficient to know that the world is not as civilized as it is thought to be. One finds abundant examples such as racial discrimination and segregation, male dominance, prejudice against the old, the handicapped and the poor etc. All the communities all over the world have failed to remain intact with these narrow way of thinking. Nepal is not an exception.

Recently a news published in the Kathmandu Post indicates that we are still lagging behind in this scientific era. It is about the version of a teacher who has been isolated because of his lower caste. He expresses his concern about the behavior of educated people towards him. He points out that his fellow teachers and students refuse to dine with him at the same table. His appeal and protest made me think about it.

We are not unfamiliar about this kind of situation. Everyone uses the high sounding slogans of equality, liberty and fraternity. However, when we come to the practical part of the life, we find ourselves being guided by the same narrow and conservative thoughts as any uneducated person. These irrational thoughts have occupied our minds for ages in such a manner that we find it difficult to behave in an uncustomary and untraditional way. In each and every atom of our body, the negative influence of our conservative culture has spread its roots. So the common people are the victims. In such a case, the educated people are expected to guide the laymen to think in a broad manner which is not only right but also essential. This requires a strong will-power and determination.

Hence the educated people have a great responsibility on their shoulders. If they fail to accomplish this responsibility, they are bound to face the humiliation before the great personalities Moreover, the demarcation between civilization and fanaticism will vanish and we will be no better than the savages with a thin quote of civilization. Let us hope against hope that our behaviour will be worthy of our education. It is high time that we discarded the narrow-minded practices and adopted the good ones.

2. Write and essay about the values held by the traditional Nepali society in which a woman who cannot bear children is considered as a failure in her personal life and a useless woman in the eyes of the society.

Nepali society is traditional in its practices, cultural behaviour and activities. Being a Hindu society, people follow the culture that has been handed over to them by their forefathers. Naturally in course of following the culture, the ideas of the people happen to be in accordance with the elders and religious authorities. As a result, some of the ideas and practices tend to be parochial and some constructive as well as creative. Because of this reason, one can give number of examples about the bad and good aspects of the culture.

For instance dowry system, sacrificing animals, treating the women as slaves, caste system etc. are some of the negative aspects of our culture. They are the outcome of distortion of the culture in the hands of selfish people. On the other hand, the right guidance of scriptures, respect for elders, loving children, hospitality etc. Are the positive things of the culture in Nepali society. It has discarded some of the destructive practices such as Sathi System, child marriage etc. Inspite of that, we still have some shameful customs and ideas in our society. For example, the parents give priority to a son and consider their daughter as a burden. Similarly, a woman who cannot bear children is considered as a failure in her personal life and useless woman in the eyes of the society.

Such irrational way of thinking is the result of illiteracy. With the spread of genuine education, such ideas will be replaced with the proper ideas. Such a change in our way of thinking will change the society for the better. The replacement of Panchayati System with Democratic System can be cited as an examp0le. However, the educated people must not hesitate to speak and support what is right. Only in that case, our society can be an ideal society with a great deal of love, cooperation, and the feeling of fraternity otherwise, it will be no better than the society of people having with the hearts of beasts.


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