Paralyzed by Fear In his book of short fiction, Dubliners, Joyce brings all his Dublin citizens/characters to paralysis in some form. Eveline’s fearful lack of will is her paralysis. Examples of her lack of will in come in four forms. Her lack of will finds comfort in dust. This lack of will won’t let the beatings of her father stop. Her mother’s voice rising from the dead also deadens her lack of will. And finally, her false dreams of change damage her will for freedom. Eveline enjoys sitting at the window and sniffing dust. She finds solace in the activity. “She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue.
Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired” (Joyce 329). The short story begins with this scene. It is a dreary, dust-filled scene. How many people normally sit at the window and sniff dusty curtains? The dust is a comfort for her as is the window she sits at. “Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne.She knew the air” (330). These words come halfway in the story. They are almost a replica of the opening scene. Eveline is late for her departure with Frank, but still she sits at her window and sniffs dust! The window is a symbol for the unknown. She is safe as long as she sits on the other side. The minute Eveline walks on the other side, she faces the unknown. The unknown scares her. She finds comfort in what is comfortable and known. The life Eveline knows would not be comfortable for you or for me. This is Eveline’s freakish ritual; fear keeps her at the window.
“She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her” (331). Eveline’s paralysis will not let her own self make her happy. She depends on sniff dust for comfort. Her father’s beating determine what kind of day she will have. Frank will take her all away from this. She drowns herself. “She set her white face to him, passive like a helpless animal” (331). Passive Eveline is helpless to herself. Her lack of will and her paralytic being keep her in “dear dirty Dublin”.
- Joyce, James. “Eveline.” Exploring Literature. 2nd ed. Ed. Frank Madden. New York: Longman, 2004.