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Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15) 
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Post Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)


Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences.



Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:13 am
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Post Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
There are still couple of stories that people haven't gotten into yet, but just to keeps things moving along, does anyone have thoughts about how this story might especially exemplify the spirit of "scrupulous meanness" in which Joyce said he approached this work? Here is what saffron said about "scrupulous meanness:"

"I guess I took the phrase to describe that Joyce was writing his characters without consideration of whether or not they would be sympathetic. Creating the characters and the stories through frank descriptions including the grit and the impolite"



Tue Apr 09, 2013 5:24 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
DWill wrote:
There are still couple of stories that people haven't gotten into yet, but just to keeps things moving along, does anyone have thoughts about how this story might especially exemplify the spirit of "scrupulous meanness" in which Joyce said he approached this work? Here is what saffron said about "scrupulous meanness:"

"I guess I took the phrase to describe that Joyce was writing his characters without consideration of whether or not they would be sympathetic. Creating the characters and the stories through frank descriptions including the grit and the impolite"


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.



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DWill, President Camacho
Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:50 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
I really don't have anything to add.

My opinion is that the broken home created another relationship without love. It forced a marriage between two people who were not mutually infatuated. It used societal weight and pressure as a means to punish a man into marriage.

With feminine liberalism came some liberalism for men, too. Today, I am free to be with who I choose without a certain stigma from the past being attached to me or to the woman I'm seeing. Vestiges still remain but in larger cities they're near absent. Hopefully in the future a man will not be at all responsible for the financial upbringing of a child unless that child is legitimately acknowledged before a certain time in the pregnancy.

I hope more can be discussed about this story. I know a lot of people who are better at relationships than me can add quite a bit of insight into what's going on.

All I see is a man being forced to do something based on cultural norms. He's concerned more for his job than anything else and already resents having made such a short-sighted mistake.

Thanks for the post Saffron.



Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:45 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
Yeah, that was a response from saffron that raised the bar some. Joyce was apparently attempting a dissection of society that wasn't the acknowledged purpose of fiction at the time. He makes the reader feel that he withdraws from emotional entanglement with his fictional people. And although their lives are surely mean for the most part, the scrupulous part comes in with Joyce never exaggerating for effect and not stacking the deck totally against the characters, allowing us to see that they do struggle against hard conditions and have to adapt to them. Even the hard cases in "Two Gallants" are real people to us instead of villains.

Mrs. Mooney does look at her daughter's marriage possibilities as a transaction, in the same vein as the business she runs so ably. She entraps, without any pangs of conscience, poor Mr. Doran (okay, not poor Doran; he's a big boy and should know better). Polly, for her part, is more conscious of what she's after than she lets on, and at the end she breaks out of her romantic dream to go collect the reward she knows her mom has arranged. The mitigating factor for Mrs. M is her own hard past with a worthless husband. She's had to make a living through determination and shrewdness, and this necessity robs her of some humanity. So while it might be that we don't feel much sympathy for these people, Joyce wants us to understand them and not pass quick judgment.



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Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:21 pm
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Post Re: Dubliners - "The Boarding House" (Story 7 of 15)
She's had to make a living through determination and shrewdness, and this necessity robs her of some humanity.

Very nice here.



Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:29 pm
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