The Unconscious Struggle for Human Existence

Length: 11 Pages 2707 Words

According to philosopher Karl Marx, humans are "slaves to historical necessity and their thought and thinking are rigidly determined by the mode of production" (Beer xxii). This view of historical materialism asserts that the culture, political, and government systems of a given people derive from the material conditions of their existence. Thus, "life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life"(Reader 155). In the short story, "The Boarding House", James Joyce uses Mrs. Mooney to illustrate how the "blind forces" of economic materialism determine our existence and causally result in our living by a false consciousness. The prevailing economic condition in Dublin, Ireland determines Mrs. Mooney's disposition in running her boarding house. Because of the destructive potato famine, a good portion of the city's men have fled in search of work elsewhere, leaving behind a surplus of women desperately searching for companions. Due to the lack of men, Mrs. Mooney is under more pressure to get her young, daughter Polly married and eliminate the possibility of her ending up an old maid. Reflecting the present economic ideology, Mrs. Mooney understands that her ultimate goal is to get Polly "off of her hands" and Continue...


When Polly became involved with Mr. Mooney concludes that youth could be no excuse for his deed. Mooney's most obvious state of false consciousness. Doran when she discovers this quality in him. It works to trap Doran into a relationship benefiting all of the parties. Through the combined images of the Sunday morning "circus-like" congregation, Mrs. She also knows how the church ominously weighs heavily upon his decisions, constantly reminding him of what sin he has committed and t!hat marriage is the only acceptable reparation. You needn't sham: You know I am" (73). Mooney and Polly do no want to believe they are trapping the poor Mr. Mooney's time is simply "the will of class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economic conditions of existence of one's class"! (Beer 27). Mooney and her daughter is very awkward and careful because both are working with information the other knows about, and are trying not to let that information surface.