Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
Hey, thanks for the nod. I must have said something smart. I'll try again. This story reminds me of the sociological theory of Social Exchange. This model for understanding society/human behavior looks at social behavior as a series of interactions that are based on estimates of rewards and punishments. Here let me just copy and paste:
Social Exchange Theory (sub of Reinforcement): -assumes freedom of choice and situations that require decision making; cost/benefit analysis -people are hedonistic - they try to maximize rewards and minimize costs -views social relationships primarily as exchanges of goods and services among persons -include equity theory here as: predicting the conditions under which people try to change or restructure their relationships; a state of equity exists in a relationship when participants feel that the rewards they receive are proportional to the costs they bear.
I haven't totally lost sight of DW's question. I've always thought this was a narrow way to look at social interaction, too narrow. It turns everything into a cost/benefit analysis and that sounds a bit pathological to me. Joyce is presenting Dublin through brown colored glasses in the same way that Social Exchange theory only looks at one motivation for behavior - self interest. In a strict sense one could make the arguement that everything we do is in someway in our own interest, but it is so much more complicated than that. Joyce describes a scenario that fits beautifully into the Social Exchange Theory. All three characters: Mrs. Mooney, Polly and Mr. Doran calculate what is to be lost and what is to be gained. The unapologetic way that Joyce presents the calculations that go on in the character's heads do not give us any openings for sympathy. Joyce doesn't give us any details to understand the actions of the character beyond crass self-interest. No extenuating circumstances.