Eveline Essay, Research Paper
In the short story, Eveline, James Joyce introduces us to the life of a young woman torn between duty and desire, the known and unknown. She has the opportunity to escape with Frank (the man she thinks she loves) to Buenos Aires in search of a new life. It seems obvious to the reader that Eveline should take advantage of this opportunity and escape. Instead, she decides to stay in the dreary and gloomy life she already knows. To understand Eveline s absurd decision to stay, we must analyze the reasons that prevent Eveline from pursuing a better life. Her uncertainty of Frank, the tragic deathbed promise made to her mother, and the relationship she has with her father, all contribute to Eveline s strange and final decision.
We first meet the title character within her home, a home full of dust and stifling familiarity. As she sits at her window, she notices a man walking home to one of the new red houses. These houses are not like their little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining roofs (Joyce 4). The imagery shown in Eveline s comparison of the two types of houses symbolizes one of the main themes in the story. The little brown houses represent her familiar and dreary life at home, while the shining red houses represent her opportunity to embark on a new journey with Frank.
Although she describes him as very kind, manly, [and] open-hearted (5), what Eveline knows about Frank is only what he tells her. He had tales of distant
countries He had sailed through the Straights of Magellan and told her stories of the terrible Patagonians (5). The word tales suggests that Eveline might believe these stories are false.
Because Eveline s father does not like Frank, he prohibits her to see him. I know these sailor chaps, he said. One day he had quarreled with Frank and after that she had to meet her lover secretly (5). The fact that the affair is secret makes for a much more exciting relationship, and causes Eveline to romanticize Frank. In the final line of the story, we discover that Eveline does not really have any feelings for Frank when her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition (6).
Another rationale for Eveline s final decision to stay is a promise made to her mother, Her promise to keep the home together as long as she could (6). Although most would praise Eveline for her final decision of self-sacrifice, she should also have a right to life, love, and happiness.
As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother s life laid its spell on the very quick of her being-that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her mother s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence: Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun! (6) ( The end of pleasure is pain )Although this harsh memory Eveline has of her mother helps the reader rationalize her fear of leaving and risking the breakdown of her home; Eveline must also understand that by keeping this promise, she is not being fair to herself.
The final dynamic of Eveline s decision to stay is fear of her father. This fear is possibly generalized to all men, including Frank. Her mother was ill treated in life, and Eveline vows, she would not be treated as her mother had been (4). She tries to convince herself that her life is not wholly undesirable, (5) but Joyce reveals how hard
and undesirable her life actually is when he tells us that she felt herself in danger of her father s violence. She gets palpitations (4) because she is so afraid of her own father. Although he threatens and treats her badly, she still thinks that sometimes he could be very nice, (5) just because she remembers him making her laugh once, and one other time when he took care of her when she was sick. These good memories about her father are insignificant compared to what her life at home is actually like. Eveline also has to support the mistreatments of her abusive father even when she is asking him for money to buy groceries. Especially on Saturday nights when he is usually fairly bad, meaning he is drunk. Eveline continues to questions herself if it is wise to leave. All she has at her home is shelter and food; (and) those whom she had known all her life (4) The reader can sense she does not feel quite at home even in her father s house. For example, she does not even know the name of the priest on a photograph in the house she has lived in for the past nineteen years.
Joyce s use of irony is demonstrated in the final paragraphs of the story. After reading of Eveline s dark and dreary life, it seems obvious that she would escape to a life of opportunity and newfound freedom. Instead, Eveline chooses the odour of dusty cretonne (4) in a life full of hard work and sacrifice. Her uncertainties of Frank, love for her mother, and fear of her father all play a part in Eveline s final decision. She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to
show her what was her duty Her distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips in silent fervent prayer (6). This quote helps to characterize Eveline as a dreamer. Afraid to make a decision and go after what she wants, Eveline convinces herself it would not be wise to take a chance on happiness. Although it is too late for Eveline, the story teaches us to seize the day, have trust in ourselves, and take a chance on happiness.