The Unconscious Struggle For Human Existence Essay

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The Unconscious Struggle For Human Existence Essay, Research Paper The Unconscious Struggle for Human Existence 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 to see that she is provided with some financial stability. Marxian language justifies Mrs. Mooney’s behavior because, “Ideas are simply the ideological reflexes and echoes of one’s

material life-process” (Ideology 14). She first sends Polly to be a typist in a corn-factor’s office in hopes that the well-off boss will grow fond of her and possibly wed her. When this option fails, she sets Polly, her bait, to do work at the boarding house, “giving her the run of the men” (Joyce 72). Mrs. Mooney’s position as owner of the house is an asset in her quest for Polly’s husband, in that it puts Polly in the path of a plethora of well-to-do men. Joyce illustrates the control of human materialism by illustrating Mrs. Mooney’s determination to see Polly betrothed to a man with sound assets. Mrs. Mooney latches on to Mr. Doran when she discovers this quality in him. Mrs. Mooney governs her house “cunningly and firmly”, constantly weeding out the

candidates who did not “mean business” with Polly, and searching for the one who did. Mrs. Mooney dangles Polly like bait in front of the men, scoping out the one with promising intentions. Her behavior echoes Marxian ideology, in that “it is not the consciousness of one that determines his existence, but rather it is his social existence that determines his consciousness” (Beer ix) Mrs. Mooney’s imposing position and behavior are derived from her present position in the economy. The economic condition also controls Mrs. Moooney’s optimistic views in handling Mr. Doran. Furthering his perfect attributes for being a husband, Mooney “knew he had a good screw for one thing and she suspected he had a bit of stuff put by” (Joyce 76). Mrs. Mooney realizes that publicity

of Duran’s action for Mr. Doran would mean the risk of him losing his job and the taint of his well established, pious character. Marx can explain why Doran agrees more with reparation due to his promising, economic position. In this time of economic repression, Mr. Doran knows he can not quit one job and easily find another. This is further evidence of the power of materialism that governs human lives. Doran values his monetary rank so that he sacrifices every subjective influence. “A serious, not rakish young man”, Mr. Doran deeply respects his job as a Catholic wine merchant and fears what wrath his employer Mr. Leonard would leash upon him if his action were to go public. Reflecting Marxian ideology, “a man’s consciousness changes with every change in the conditions