James Joyce’ Eveline
Eveline is one of the short stories from the collection of short stories known as Dubliners written by James Joyce. The story revolves round the main character Eveline, a teenage girl who lives with her family in Ireland. The main character of the story, Eveline undergoes a change at the end of the tale, a change in her awareness. She realizes that she cannot break her promise to her dying mother and forgo her duties towards her family.
Moreover she becomes aware of the fact that she is not strong enough to go against the norms of the society and her family who have set her role as a woman and take that final and huge step towards the unknown but hopeful future. She also realizes that she has grown used to her present life of misery and hardship and is fearful of the unknown and unfamiliar life symbolized by Frank, her boyfriend. Instead to saying yes in response to the calling of Frank, her response is no. The memories of her past and the thoughts of future are the reasons behind the change in her.
She recollects the memories of her mother who lived a miserable life: “that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness”, (James Joyce’ ‘Eveline’). Also, the violence of her father which gave the palpitation and the disrespectful treatment she faces while working in the stores. Frank represented her happiness and the means of escape from the life of hardships. The hope of a positive future with Frank helps her in decision to leave Ireland forever to escape her present situation. On the other hand, she remembers her promise to her mother to keep the home together as long as she could.
She loves her father very much. She realizes that her father is getting old and he will miss her if she leaves him alone and goes away with Frank. She remembers her childhood days when she used to play in the field with other kids of the avenue. The happy times she has send with her family when her mother was alive and her father was not so bad. She also recollects the times when her father was very nice towards her. As the time comes nearer for her to leave her home, ‘she did not find it a wholly undesirable life’, (James Joyce’s ‘Eveline’)
Her duties towards her family, the familiarity of the surroundings where she has grown from a child to an adolescent and the happy memories of her childhood make her indecisive with regard to her voyage with Frank to the unknown waters. Also, as an individual, she is an obedient, meek and scared woman who fails to gain the mental strength required to take such a big step towards the unknown destiny. The change in her awareness results in her paralysis. She is paralyzed with fear of the unknown. She lacks the courage and strength required to take the leap which will free her from her oppressive situation.
She is scared to leave Ireland and views her lover as a potential source of danger: “All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He [Frank] was drawing her into them: he would drown her”, (James Joyce’ ‘Eveline’). So instead of an uncertain but hopeful future, she now faces a certain and dismal future. She chooses a life that may just be a repetition of her mother’s sad life. I think that it is for the worse. Her lack of self confidence and her paralysis prevents her from moving towards an unknown but hopeful future. If she had left with Frank, there was a possibility that she might have lived a more hopeful and happy life.
However by accepting her present life, she nullifies the possibility and confirms the fact that her life may turn out to be like her mother’s sad life. I better understand the character and learn that the place where a person grows from a child to an adult and the situations the person faces shapes her character and makes her what she is. I had a somewhat similar experience in my life. At the age of 19, I fell in love. My parents were against the relationship. They forbade me to keep any connection with him. At one point of time, I was so desperate that I decided to elope with my boyfriend.
However, at the last moment, I decided against it. I had a very sheltered upbringing. I did not have the mental strength to make such a major decision on my own and also go against my parents. I was afraid of taking a wrong decision. I was afraid of leaving the security of my home and step towards an unknown and insecure future. Also, I lived in a very conservative society and I had imbibed those values. I wanted to be an obedient daughter who obeys her parents and does not disgrace herself and her parents in society by eloping with her lover.
Similarly the main character in the story is paralyzed with fear of the unknown. She is afraid to leave the familiar surroundings, her father whom she loves very much. She is also not brave enough to take such a bold step. Rather she accepts her fate. Thus, the author has explored the psychological state of a girl who is subjugated by society and family. The girl leads a life of diminished personal and professional opportunities. Her dreams and ambitions are crushed by a social environment that blindly accepted a staunchly patriarchal family structure and confirm moral Catholic orthodoxy.
She has been taught to believe that she has some responsibilities and duties as a woman and certain behavioral pattern that she needs to follow. These things are so much imbibed in her that she cannot go against it, even if she wants to. As a result she does not follow Frank, rather stays back with her family in Ireland to fulfill her duties. The author through the story ‘Eveline’ is trying to teach us that as an individual, we all face changes through different incidents in our life. Thus we gain in experience and grow from a child to an adolescent and then to an adult.
We thus become more mature. The main character of the story, Eveline experiences a change in her awareness of what should be the right thing for her to do. She realizes that she should fulfill her duties and decides against her happiness. She forges her dreams and the faces the reality of her situation. The theme of the story is the struggle between one’s happiness and one’s responsibilities. Eveline faces a mental struggle between her happiness and her responsibilities. Ultimately her sense of responsibility towards her family wins over her wish for happiness.
From the very beginning of the story, Eveline has a mental conflict about what she should do: “She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise? She tried to weigh each side of the question”, (James Joyce’ ‘Eveline’). She is unable to decide whether she should follow her dreams and happiness or stay back to fulfill her duties. She thinks about the hardship that she faces in her day to day life. In the shop, she has to work really hard and also tolerate the disrespectful behavior. Back home she has to work hard to keep the family together.
She has to look after her father and the two young children. She thinks that she was in danger of her father’s violence. She is very scared of her father as he has started threatening her ‘and says what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake’. She also remembers her mother’s painful life, her insanity and finally her death. All these events instigate her to follow her happiness and meet Frank. However, her memory of her dying mother and her promise to her on her death bed that she will keep the family together gives her doubts and she pauses to think.
She remembers her childhood days; the happy moments spend with her parents which confuses her further. The final catalyst is her realization that her father is getting old and will miss her very much if she goes way and leaves him behind and that stops her from taking that final step towards her happiness. She becomes aware of the fact that her responsibilities towards her family are more important than her own happiness. Also that she won’t be able to live with the burden of not fulfilling her promise to her dying mother.
So she decided against pursuing her happiness and stays back to fulfill her responsibilities. In the short story ‘Eveline’ by James Joyce, the heroine Eveline sacrifices her happiness to fulfill her responsibilities.
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