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Imagine yourself in Dublin in the early 1900’s. Marriage was a very big thing in those days. For some people it was a means of getting a better life and for others it just meant getting out of the house and living on their own. Author James Joyce gave his view of marriage in the stories “The Boarding House”, “A Little Cloud,” and “Counterparts”.

It seems at first that marriage is a necessity. If you weren’t married by a certain age then you weren’t getting married. After the death of her butcher husband, Mrs. Mooney opened a boarding house, where she now lives with her son and her nineteen-year-old daughter Polly. Mrs. Mooney runs a tight ship and keeps a close eye on the young men interacting with Polly. She hopes to marry her daughter to one of them one day. At last Mrs. Mooney notices that Polly seems to be having an affair with a young man named Mr. Doran, who works in a wine-merchant’s office. Mrs. Mooney decides to try to force Mr. Doran to marry Polly. She sends a maid to summon him to speak with her. For his part, Mr. Doran is nervous and uncertain. He is terrified of the publicity that would fall upon him if the affair were made public–he would face disgrace and the loss of his job. And he is fond of Polly, even if she sometimes embarrasses him with her poor speech. He is mortified by the thought of speaking to Mrs. Mooney, so when Polly comes sobbing to his room for comfort, he is hardly able to concentrate on her. He remembers the beginning of their affair, and at last goes down to see Mrs. Mooney. Polly waits in Mr. Doran’s room, thinking about the future. A short time later, Mrs. Mooney calls for Polly, saying, “Mr. Doran wants to speak to you.” Marriage was being forced onto this man. Mr. Doran considered marriage a trap and wanted no part of it but he was very fond of Polly. Mrs. Mooney pulls all the strings: she wants to marry her daughter to a well-off boarder, and is determined to capitalize on Polly’s affair with Mr. Doran to see that plan through. Mr. Doran has no choice but to marry Polly because he knows if anyone finds out of his premarital affair with her then he’d be in a lot of trouble.

Some people have absolutely no desire to get married because they find no enjoyment in being tied down to one person. In “A Little Cloud” a man called Little Chandler thinks of his meeting to come with his charismatic bachelor friend Gallagher, who left Dublin under strained circumstances and went on to become a prominent London newspaperman. Excited, he goes to meet Gallagher at an expensive restaurant, Corless’s, to where he has never been before but about which he has often fantasized. Little Chandler feels out of place amid the opulent surroundings of the bar at Corless’s, but Gallagher soon puts him at ease with his genial manner and stories about the world’s great cities. They discuss some of their old friends, and also discuss Little Chandler’s recent marriage. Little Chandler tries to convince Gallagher to spend the evening at his home, but Gallagher has other plans, and says he is leaving Dublin tomorrow. Abruptly Chandler begins to feel somewhat envious of his friend, and he starts to act petulant, insisting that one day Gallagher will marry soon and change his rakish ways. Gallagher retorts by saying he will marry only for wealth, and that he imagines being tied to one woman would be stale. Little Chandler goes home, and feels vaguely dissatisfied with his wife Annie. She goes out to run an errand, leaving him with their infant son. Little Chandler tries to read poetry while the child was sleeping, but he wakes up and begins to cry. Chandler tries to calm him, but eventually yells at the child making it worse. Annie comes in and angrily takes the baby away from her husband, asking, “What have you done to him?” As she soothes their son, Little Chandler feels a flush of remorse. He’s starting to think about what his friend told him and he is forced to confront the unpleasant reality of his situation.

Sometimes being married is worse than being single in Dublin. In “Counterparts”, a man named Farrington is married and has five children. Unable to obtain an advance on his pay from the cashier, Farrington decides to pawn his watch in order to have money for drinking that night. He takes his six shillings and dives into a raucous evening with his friends but returns home angry and unhappy. He spent all his money and hadn’t even gotten drunk. He goes into his house, and finds that his wife has gone to the chapel, and not left dinner for him. One of his sons, Tom, offers to fix him dinner, but Farrington is furious. He seizes a walking stick, and, ignoring his son’s pleas, begins to beat him. He’s a fall down drunk and finds his life to be miserable. His desire for drunkenness or “thirst” as Farrington innocently thinks of it, can wreck a human life. In fact it can wreck more than one human life since Farrington’s oafish brutality affects his children and his wife terribly. He doesn’t even seem to know his children’s names. His wife bullies him around when he is sober but when he is drunk she is always the one being bullied. His work is miserable, his home life is miserable and even his pleasures are shocking and disgraceful. Unlike the first two stories marriage has no impact on Farrington and his behavior

Author James Joyce gave his view of marriage in the stories “The Boarding House”, “A Little Cloud”, and “Counterparts”. Marriage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In “The Boarding House” marriage was a necessity but some good would have come from it whereas in “A Little Cloud” marriage was thought to be stale because a married man cant have fun when he’s tied down. In “Counterparts” marriage was indifferent because no thought was given to how alcoholism can ruin a marriage. In each story marriage was forced, doubtful, or pointless.

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