Marxist Theories Among Irish Marriages
James Joyce’s collection of short stories, aptly known as The Dubliners showcase many instances of Marxist theories – a doctrine coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – which was one of the major philosophical ideas during the nineteenth century. Within the short stories “The Boarding House” and “A Little Cloud”, Joyce conveys the struggles that individuals face in an attempt to rise above their economical and social statuses. Often times, these attempts and dreams to amass great wealth conclude in greater oppression and immediate repercussions. Exemplified by two male protagonists who are burdened by their responsibilities towards strict Irish expectations, these characters took on marriage to uphold what little respect they have left within the Catholic community. Although the men yearn to rise above their ranks, both are unfortunately tied down into unhappy and socially upsetting marriages, which renders their desires to climb up society’s ladder as merely impossible.
In the short story “The Boarding House”, an anxious, middle-aged man who goes by the name Mr. Doran, sets out to answer Mrs. Mooney - the head of the boarding house at which he resides. Hearing about Mr. Doran’s love affair with Polly, her nineteen-year-old daughter, Mrs. Mooney plots to ensnare Mr. Doran into marriage. This simple affair quickly evolves to become a tactical game of obligation and reparation that portrays marriage as a social standard, persuaded by the public’s perception instead of the mere feelings of love. Left with few choices, Mr. Doran reveals his dilemma through the question, “What could he do now but marry her or run away?” (41). Ultimately, Mr. Doran could choose to either marry beneath his class and suffer a hard-hit blow to his reputation or run away from his problematic relationship and lose all the respect he had built within his thirteen years of hard work. Contemplating his final decision after “the recollection of his confession last night” (41) to which “[his] priest had drawn out every ridiculous detail of the affair” (41) and “had so magnified his sin” (41), Mr. Doran descends the stairs propelled by a force of social pressure and anxiety. Although Joyce omits the final confrontation from the short story, readers may evidently assume that Mr. Doran goes through with the marriage in order to comply and please the strict regulations found within the Irish Catholic society.
Likewise, in the short story “A Little Cloud”, Joyce introduces a small, child-statured man known as Little Chandler who goes off to meet his old friend, Gallaher – a middle-aged playboy who works for the London Press. Impressed by his talents and charm, Little Chandler excitedly prepares to meet his long-time friend at a Dublin bar. However, upon spending time with him, Chandler registers the “acute … contrast between his own life and his friend’s” (51), marking it with an unjust perception since Gallaher was able to work and travel...