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Katoromian 1

Alin Katoromian
English 114 B
Professor Olson
15 February 2015
Weak Bonds
Women have always been stereotyped as belonging in the house and having the job of a
housewife. In Ireland in the early 1900s womens rights were minimal if not nonexistent. They
were of no power outside the house and this affected their roles as mothers largely. Politics and
laws shaped women to act a certain way inside the house due to the lack of rights and power for
women. In The Mother and The Boarding House by James Joyce, we see two similar
relationships between Mrs. Mooney and her daughter Polly and Mrs. Kearney and her daughter
Kathleen. Although, Mrs. Mooneys intentions are in the right place she goes beyond the limits
of parenting and takes full control over Polly and her decision to be married. In Mrs. Kearneys
style of parenting she believes in being a pushover until she gets what she wants for her
daughters performance, eventually, ruining any potential career for Kathleen. The role of
politics in early Ireland minimizes the power of women, ultimately; allowing mothers like Mrs.
Mooney and Mrs. Kearney to be demanding and controlling while parenting.
Women saw parenting as their only opportunity to have control and power without going
against governmental laws. In early Ireland, parenting was not a blessing but a priority for
mothers, Jurists, who created and kept the secular laws of early Ireland, defined the initial
relation of mother to child as one of the rights and responsibilities rather than natural affection
(Land of women 84). Politics influences the mothers behavior as well as style of parenting,
which is a building block of the childs own identity. The normality of a child building its own

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identity through life and personal experiences is taken away when the over bearing control of the
mom is persistent in the childs life. Granting women freedom allows there to be space to expand
knowledge and learn to parent in different ways rather than being told to raise children to survive
rather than grow into their own. Today, females have rights and priorities that women in early
20th century did not have, which is why parenting now has improved drastically.
A mothers own identity influences that of their daughters, due to the large influence a
mother has over her daughter. In The Boarding House, Mrs. Mooney and her daughter Pollys
relationship is more professional rather than personal. Too much of anything is never a suitable
option, and for the mother to be over engrossed in the decisions of their daughters, deprives them
of personal growth. Mrs. Mooneys personality is controlling and narcissistic when it comes to
running her business and being a mother to Polly. If a mothers role in the daughters life is
exhausting then the daughter may turn out to be dependent and lacking in life. For example, Mrs.
Mooney controls Polly like an object rather than a child with her own growing identity, Mrs.
Mooney had first sent her daughter to be a typewriter in a cornfactors office but she had taken
her daughter home again and set her to do housework (Joyce 51). In this situation, due to Mrs.
Mooneys oppressive identity, Polly is being withheld from her full potential and ability to make
her own life choices. The mother has no other responsibilities other than raising the children to
be well off therefore going through extremes to accomplish this task.
The mothers identity can overpower that of the daughters and shape it to be similar to
her own. Spending ones entire adolescent life living under the control of a powerful figure such
as a mom can influence their own identity drastically. In the book The Spiritual Dimension of
Childhood, it mentions how a child is largely affected by the parenting style and the identity of
the parents all together, children develop the capacity to deal effectively with their lives through

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experience and the role of the mother in the childs life (Adams 108). Joyce characterizes Polly
and Kathleen as somewhat careless and clueless in their own lives, allowing the mothers to step
in and handle the childrens lives for them. The demanding forceful traits Mrs. Mooney and Mrs.
Kearney have are withholding their daughters from potentially having a future that they created.
Women only wanted the best for their daughters and if the government treated them as unequals
the least a mother could do was to make sure her daughter had the absolute best for her future. In
this situation a daughter becomes someone other than what she could have been, due to the
empowering mothers they deal with.
Keeping women inside the house for too long gives them the feeling of being a leader
rather than a caretaker. If someone is deprived of a certain quality once they get a hold of it,
greed consumes them fully. In the case of Mrs. Kearney, she has a nice family with a decent
husband who allows her to partake in what she wants explaining her behavior at her daughters
performance. She pushes Mr. Holohan to the point of annoyance because she must have her pay
upfront. Mrs. Kearney almost seems to be a manager for Kathleen rather than a mother and uses
her daughter as a source of pay. She meddles into her daughters life constantly, Anyway, if its
not your business its my business and I mean to see it (Joyce 123). This bossy attitude is the
outcome of having no say in anything else besides situations that involved her children, making
her now feel fully in control. For women in that era survival came before happiness, leading to
Mrs. Kearneys persistent behavior in trying to get the money upfront. Women were not allowed
to work jobs they wanted to work therefore any opportunity to make money on their own was a
must.
Having limitations set by the government just for being female changes women, as well
as their character. Before womens rights surfaced the psychological state of a mother was not at

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its healthiest. Inspiration, courage, and success were close to inevitable for women due to the
bias opinions of the government at the time. All the emotions that come with feeling unfulfilled
lowered the egos of mothers therefore, playing a domino effect onto their daughters as well as
the rest of the family. If there is an unhappy mother in the house it will lead to the negative
emotions of those around her. If the mothers own self is lacking and is unstable the possibility of
having that passed down to her daughter is a very large risk. Women did not receive their rights
up until mid-1900s and even then were treated unequal; until this day women are still treated as
lesser than men. If the Irish government allowed women the freedom they deserve, not only
could they have completely different identities but could allow their daughters to be free and
explore their options as well. If there are limitations on a mother this would only lead to the
buildup of pressure on their children and reprehends the identity of the child.
Not allowing women to obtain an education diminishes any possibilities of change and
personal growth. Holding women back from partaking in school and working towards a degree
forces them to stay at the same level of knowledge forever. Without growth there is no change,
forcefully making women pass on this behavior to their daughters. The never ending cycle of
authoritative parenting never becomes abolished and gets passed down through generations. If
women never leave there house for personal time, there is no way that they could create
memories and have their own personal experiences. Without these specific traits females begin to
lose morality therefore, acting up in the house while governing their children. Parenting
consumes the mother to become a different version of herself and have a new identity because of
the concept of having to take care of her family and live to protect them.
Being surrounded by powerful female figures has taught me the importance of an identity
and how defining it is of a person and their characteristics. My mothers identity has been fused

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into mine, in some aspects rather than fully. The way my mother taught me how to define myself
differs from how the mothers in early Ireland went about it. Now, women dont have barriers and
laws against freedom and power, allowing this new generation of females to learn different ways
on teaching a daughter about themselves. Females who lack a motherly figure in their life dont
have that muse or model to follow and go to for advice therefore, building an identity without
that powerful influence. Females were seen as the lower level on a hierarchy leading to the
insecurities women developed and eventually passed onto their daughters. Today mothers go
about a different method when raising their daughters because of the freedom granted by the
government ultimately; improving the way a mother teaches a daughter about self and
personality.
Space affects ones identity significantly especially through politics. The limitations set by
the government that were placed on women in early Ireland lead to this ideal of bad parenting
and withheld mothers from acquiring knowledge to improve these circumstances. The mothers
we see in the stories are definitely too involved and dictate every inch of their daughters lives
and decisions. A powerful identity must be handled delicately or the outcome may play a large
toll on the child being exposed to this strong personality. Mrs. Mooney and Mrs. Kearney are just
two of many women who expose their daughters to strict rule and demanding actions, which
leads back to their own personal selves and we see how large the influence between mother and
daughter actually is. The fragility of space on a persons selfhood is immensely important and
how this trait gets passed down through generations creates a chain reaction that could be
extremely difficult to break.

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