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“Eveline” by James Joyce



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    Through our lives we find ourselves in different situations and places and under the effect of variety and diversity. Following the human nature we always struggle for more, for something better, for something more valuable, but on that path we usually are brought in front of crossroads, which will determine our next stage of life. In a same crossroad is brought the main character in the story by James Joyce, “Eveline. ” It is a story of young love, which talks about a 19 year-old-girl named Eveline.

    She faces the most important and difficult decision in her life. Sitting at the window she thinks of her childhood and the time when her family was together. Now the family has only two members, her father and her. Her mother and her brother Ernest are dead and her other brother Harry lives far away. He needs to work in order to earn some money and keep his business alive. Her old father makes her work at a store and then takes all her wages. He used to beat his sons, but lately he has started threatening Eveline.

    Ironically Joyce shows the reader that her father does not respect his daughter does not appreciate her sacrifices. He has “begun to threaten her and say what he’d do to her only for her dead mother’s sake” (lines 55-56). With her brothers gone, Eveline does not have anyone to protect her. Dreaming about a new life, full of happiness, joy and love, she thinks to escape with a sailor named Frank, who lives in Buenos Aires. At this point she thinks of her mother and the life her mother had, which could be described as a “life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness” (127-128).

    Eveline does not want to have the life her mother had, she does not want to be treated like her mother was. Then, Eveline thinks about the promise she made to her mother before she died. She promised her mother that she would take care of the family and would try to keep it together as long as she can. Here begins Eveline’s dilemma of whether she should take the risk and leave her home or stay and remain in safety. The whole story is based on this dilemma, and all the characters, symbols, actions and ideas interact with each other. There s only one main character in this story, Eveline. The protagonist changes her emotional and psychological state from time to time, which culminates in her final decision not to leave behind her father, brother, and everything which is familiar to her. Depending on her emotional state, Joyce gives the reader two personalities of Eveline. On one hand, Eveline is a girl who does not find her life wholly unsatisfying. She lives in a familiar area surrounded by the objects she “had dusted once a week for so many years” (24) and she “had never dreamed of being divided” (27).

    Eveline is afraid to let go of her old life and she knows that she cannot separate from her father, because family relations are very strong. Even though Eveline does not feel loved, she loves her father and tries to keep on thinking about the good moments she had passed with him. She is not sure if she really loves Frank, if she wants to escape with him. Using a unique writing style, called stream of consciousness, the author does not describe any real action or plot because everything takes place in Evelin’s mind.

    On the other hand, Eveline is a girl who cannot wait to explore another way of living. Joyce describes the character of a 19 year-old-girl, who is full of dreams and hopes. She is sure that the new life that lies in front of her is going to be completely different from what she has experienced until now. She starts dreaming about people who respect her and about a beautiful life with Frank. To her, Frank represents a new and exciting lifestyle that she has not had the opportunity to experience after taking over the mother role.

    Her lifestyle appears to be comforting to her because of its stability, whereas being with Frank is something new and spontaneous to her. Perhaps Eveline is not so much in love with Frank as she is with the opportunity to enjoy a new lifestyle that contradicts everything she has known and become accustomed to. Eveline’s internal conflict of breaking the promise she made to her mother and leaving with Frank keeps rising. One main problem in the family, which convinces her more to leave with Frank, is the fact that her family is very poor.

    The author expresses this lack of the money for this family when Eveline goes to the market and she holds her black leather purse “tightly in her hand as she elbowed her way through the crowds and returning home late under her load of provisions” (68-70). Also, her family poverty appears when Frank takes her to the theater and she expresses her delight with the seats Frank has purchased. She was used to sit in the back rows because she did not have money to buy better seats. Also, death plays an important role in this story.

    Since the beginning of the story the author points out that many of Eveline’s friends and family died and she is too young to experience all this cruelty. Using the symbol of dust spread throughout the house and the aged yellow painting of Mary Margaret Alocoque, a French nun, the author enables the reader to get a sense of death and loneliness surrounding Eveline. James Joyce presents in this story three of his main themes used in his writing style which are: family, escape and paralysis. All these three main themes are related to each other and are developed based on Eveline’s dilemma.

    When she thinks about her family and the promise she made to her mother, Eveline does not think of leaving her home, because to her the family relation is very important. But when she thinks that she could have her mother’s life she gets scared and wants to leave everything behind and enjoy the life she has been dreaming about. Once these two thoughts clash between them the author paralysis Eveline’s mind and body. Because of his writing style Joyce exaggerates all these feelings inside Eveline, in order to give a clearer understanding of emotions that she has to face.

    At the end of the story Joyce shows the reader that she is weak and not strong enough to take her own decisions: All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing. “Come! ” No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy. Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish. “Eveline! Evvy! ” He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her.

    She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition. (153-163) The paralysis, which is commonly used as a theme in Dubliners leads Eveline toward a decision which will leave her without emotional fulfillment. By rejecting Frank’s proposal, she also rejects the possibility for a new lifestyle and her right to be happy. Joyce shows the reader that Eveline is unable to move forward because she is afraid of an uncertain but hopeful future.

    She chooses instead to live a certain life which most probably will end up like her mother’s unfortunate story.

    Works Cited

    “Eveline” By James Joyce. Online – literature. com Web. 11 Mar. 2012. Joyce, James. “Eveline” Dubliners by James Joyce. Ed. Robert Craven. Imperial College, London, n. d. Web. 11 Mar. 2012. Joyce, James. “Eveline” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNotes on Dubliners” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes LLC. 2004. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

    “Eveline” by James Joyce. (2016, Dec 18). Retrieved from

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