This is another story in the Dubliners collection. James Joyce
wrote about the people of Dublin–not the down and outers
like those in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, but, a step up,
about people making their livings, barely—with scanty occupations
and little visible means of getting ahead. (Well, I think that’s a step up.)
Joyce writes over and over again about the people of Dublin—the
people he remembered when growing up and what it felt like to grow up
in Catholic Ireland. He left Dublin and Ireland as a young man,
and never returned to live there. But Dublin never left him. It’s
visibly entwined in story after story (novel after novel) and shown
by the simple, threadbare characters he gives us.
Mrs. Mooney is such a character. She had known somewhat of a
good life as the daughter of a butcher, but a sour marriage to a
man who liked his drink more than providing for his family made
an independent woman of her. She kicked him out and opened her
own boarding house, and soon had several young men boarding there.
She has a son, barely reputable, and a daughter, Polly, who is proud
of being a naughty girl. Polly’s fun leads to involvement with one of
the boarders—a young man who is a hard worker and who has actually
saved up some money.
It is his poor luck that Polly and he have gone too far—and Mrs.
Mooney fears for her own good reputation if Polly isn’t married
She knows of women who have several unmarried daughters in
Dublin—and is thankful for having only one. But something must be
done to “encourage” a marriage.