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Analysis of Eveline

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Introduction

Analysis of Eveline James Joyce's "Eveline", one of the short stories in "The Dubliners" , is a tale based upon the friction which can exist between familial and romantic love , the conflicts between the opposite choices of perpetuating the status quo versus initiating irreversible change , and the agonies that are experienced when pivotal decisions have to be made and powerful but divergent emotions inevitably collide. The plot is not complex. The story opens - we see a young woman who is agonising over a vital life choice. She is bored and overworked , victimised and threatened by her aggressive and occasionally drunken father yet she has been offered the chance of salvation from these circumstances by a potential lover who would transport her far away perhaps never to return. Her decision as to whether to take this chance causes her much distress as she wrestles with the arguments for both staying and going. In the end she decides to stay , perhaps no less anguished , perhaps in the future to regret what might have been ; we are not told - the story closes. Such has been the basic theme , with of course some variations , for countless stories , anecdotes , legends , dramas , novels (ancient and modern) , and even fairy tales. Twist the ending and we have the story of "Cinderella" ; modify the father to a crippled husband and we have the basis for "Lady Chatterley's Lover" ; keep the ending , alter the setting and exaggerate the motivation of the main characters and we see "Brief Encounter". If we delve at random into a shelf of Mills and Boon novellas or riffle through the pages of any one of a number of womens' periodical magazines we risk discovering this recurrent image :- girl stressed and unhappy , girl falls in love , girl offered chance of a lifetime , girl torments herself with decision - (should she ? ...read more.

Middle

There is a hint of drunken anger - 'for he was usually fairly bad of a Saturday night' ; we know Eveline is vulnerable as a lone female who evokes memories of her mother in him - a mother whom he used to mistreat ; 'And now she had nobody to protect her. Ernest was dead and Harry ....... was nearly always down somewhere in the country.'. Clearly the situation is not only threatening for Eveline but is worsening and besides - ' had begun to weary her unspeakably '. Within the paragraph which describes the degeneration of Eveline's relationship with her father and the increasing level of verbal violence coupled with the threat of this becoming eventually physical , Joyce uses an accomplished yet complex metaphor. Previously we have been told of Eveline's determination - ' not to be treated as her mother had been ', yet we are then immediately and almost directly told by Joyce that this is in fact the inevitable outcome towards which her father's hostility is leading her - ' he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother's sake'. The metaphor occurs in the description of Eveline after yet another financial quarrel with her father as she struggles to do her shopping - ' Then she had to rush out as quickly as she could and do her marketing , holding her black leather purse tightly in her hand as she elbowed through the crowds and returning home late under her load of provisions.' Why do we need such a relatively long description of a somewhat trivial aspect of Eveline's routine ? To show us surely that she has effectively become her mother - doing household things which her mother used to undertake in reaction to the same abuse. When , in the next sentence , we are told about Eveline's obligations towards the children - ' She had hard work to keep the house together and ...read more.

Conclusion

So how significant is this promise? As a Catholic , Eveline would probably be fearful of breaking a promise to the dead even though she might be able to confess it later. But she seems to recall at the same time - ' the pitiful vision of her mother's life........that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness'. How valid , she might be considering , would a promise be when it was made to a woman in the advanced stages of delirium. Eveline asks herself too - 'Why should she be unhappy?' and probably thinks "would Mother have wanted me to be so unhappy?". Yet in the end Eveline decides to stay and we are witness to the wonderfully descriptive scene as she finally agonises and then succumbs to let her fears of the unknown dominate her decision. I believe it is purely fear that keeps Eveline in Ireland and that the promise made to her dying mother will be used by her , in the future , to justify her decision to herself ; a decision that she had already made. Joyce's story is a powerfully crafted piece which is very successful in portraying the pressures which can exist when security and fear of the unknown become represented as family and romantic love and then vie for a decision. The anguish that Eveline experiences builds during the story from the quiet time when she - 'sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue' to the zenith of the tale when - 'Her distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips in silent fervent prayer. A bell clanged upon her heart'. The sadness of the story however is paradoxically in its anticlimactic ending when , deprived of love , deprived of escape, - both situations perhaps self-inflicted - , Eveline looks after Frank and -' her eyes gave him no sign of love or recognition'. ...read more.

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