Nguyen 1 Suong Nguyen Professor J. Attilio ENG102. 5590

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Suong Nguyen
Professor J. Attilio
ENG102. 5590
May 17, 2006
“Eveline” begins with a young woman named Eveline who is gazing out the window. In
the beginning of the story, she thinks she is going to leave home. She plans for her departure and
feels the necessity to go to a new life with her lover, Frank. In the final scene of the story, when
the boat is ready to leave, she changes her mind and refuses to go with Frank. The whole story
reflects on a memory of Eveline’s childhood and her current living problems. She resists within
her mind on the leaving decision, and finally denies leaving. What causes Eveline to change her
mind without being convinced by anyone? Logically thinking, there are four reasons, which
cause Eveline to change her decision. First of all, she made a promise to her mother that she will
keep the home together as long as she could. If she leaves with Frank, she would break her
promise. In addition, Eveline’s whole family is totally dependent upon her. How are they going
to live without her? Moreover, Frank is going to take her into a distant unknown country where
she will not recognize anyone besides him. What will happen to her if Frank is an unreliable
person? Finally, leaving with Frank is a life changing decision. If she consents to go away,
whatever troubles she may have in the future, she could never come back home.
First, Eveline always reminds herself of keeping the promise to her deceased mother: she
will "keep the home together as long as she could” (Joyce 518). After her mother’s death, she
has been living in the image of her mother. She does all the housework, shopping, and works
faithfully at her job. She has been doing a great job of keeping the family together. She is
keeping her promise to take care of her whole family. Although sometimes she feels herself in
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danger of her father’s violence, she still works hard both at home and at work. Frank offers her
the chance to escape her unhappy life, to sail with him to Buenos Aires and become his wife.
Eveline does not deny possibility of love, but there is one problem: Eveline does not love Frank.
She states that she could grow to love him, but at this point she does not love him. Frank has
pulled her out of her element, out of the status she is used to. Eveline sits in an unaccustomed
part of the theatre when she goes with him and Frank sings songs that “pleasantly confused her”
(Joyce 518). This is not to say that Eveline is using him only as a way to escape but that this
opportunity to change her life is merely a side benefit for being friendly with him. However,
when she hears the music from a street organ, she recalls not only her promise but also her
mother’s “life of commonplace sacrifices” (Joyce 518). For Eveline, The influence of the past is
stronger then the future. She has never been loved or valued herself. She does not truly believe in
the right to happiness and self-fulfillment. In addition, if she leaves with Frank, she will break
her promise and escape her duty. It mortifies her and becomes one of the reasons that lead her to
change her mind about leaving.
Second, Eveline is responsible for taking care of her family. Looking at the objects
around her that she might never see again, Eveline is thinking about whether or not she should
leave home. She notices that her father is old and “perhaps less likely to have the strength to
abuse her” (Ingersoll 504). She reflects that her aging father is sometimes nice, like the time he
took their family to the picnic, and when he read her a ghost story and made toasts for her, will
miss her. Moreover, one of her brothers is dead, and the other is mostly absent. There are two
other young children in the household who have been left in her care. They need her in order to
go to school and to get their meals. She works hard for the survival of the whole family.
Imagine what will happen if she leaves? The two young children will drop out of school.
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Nobody will take care of her father. She cannot be so selfish as to leave them alone. Eveline is
not looking at her possible escape with Frank as something that she feels good about. She is
principally concerned with her duty and her role within her family.
Third, Frank is a mysterious character and some of his intentions seem devious. He tells
Eveline that he intends to sail with her to a new life and marry her. In the beginning, Eveline is
planning to sneak away with Frank because she trusts what he says. She believes too that a way
to life and rightful happiness is a possibility with Frank; he also “would save her” (Joyce 518).
However, Frank’s career on a trade route causes Eveline to hesitate. He went to many places in
the world. Who knows if he is already married or has other lovers? Most importantly, Frank
takes Eveline with him imaginatively by telling her stories of his voyages, and relates “stories of
the terrible Patagonians.” These details, which he offers as a “legitimation of his authenticity as a
wooer” (Ingersoll 503) have caused Eveline to think that he might be “something more than the
sailor of countless jokes” (Ingersoll 503).
Also, Eveline’s father dislikes sailors. He has
quarreled with Frank, and forbids her from seeing Frank. He says: “I know these sailor chaps”
(Joyce 517). Frank might have no intention of marrying her; instead, he might be setting up a
trap for her. She is left with anxiety and confusion of how life would be like with him. If she
goes with Frank to a distant anonymous country and later finds out that he is unreliable, she
would not be able to live alone in that new world. On the other hand, she is comfortable with the
familiar objects from which she has never dreamed of being devised. She rationalizes that: “In
her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had know all her life about
her” (Joyce 516). Furthermore, Frank offers her an escape and marriage in a foreign country,
“with a strange language, a place where she will be even more vulnerable and have less
possibility of independence than she has in Dublin” (French 453). Even though she longs for a
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life of her own and wants to gain social standing and self-esteem, she is afraid of the unknown
and is consumed by her doubts. She has a feeling that he would drown her into the sea of the
world, so she refuses to leave with him.
Four, leaving with Frank is a life changing decision. She wants to escape from her
abusive father and her difficult life. For Eveline, “Franks represents the freedom” (Dilworth 458)
that she desires. He can be only a meaning of escape. She wants to “avoid her mother’s fate”
(Dilworth 458). Perhaps Frank would take her away and give her a new life. But in the end she
realizes that if she has trouble with Frank or regrets in the future, she would be unable to come
back home. When “A bell clanged upon her heart” (Joyce 518), she “once again feels threatened
by a kind of death and again yields to an impulse to escape” (Dilworth 458), she realizes that it is
impossible to leave. She makes her final decision to stay in her homeland. “She is rendered a
‘helpless animal,’ not destined for flight, keeping a good distance from the place where the calm
lakes and river meet the ‘seas of the world’” (Florio 184). She fears of being drowned in the sea
of her new life and would be unable to come back home. In the last scene, “Eveline acts out a
great melodramatic scene, heroically giving up a pleasant if uncertain future” (deVoogd, 48). She
cries out and grips the railing tighter while Frank calls her, but she turns her helpless face to him
without a glimpse of “love or farewell or recognition” (Joyce 518), staying on the shore as the
boat pulls away into the distant horizon.
Overall, it seems that Eveline refuses to leave with Frank because of her promise to her
mother and her concerns with the lives of her family. However, she is also worried about her
own future. The prospect of leaving with Frank no longer sounds appealing to her. He might
“drown” her and be unable to give her happiness. All these reasons have caused her to change
her mind about leaving with Frank.
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Works Cited
Basic, Sonja. “A Book of Many Uncertainties: Joyce’s Dubliners.” Style 25, issue 3, (Fall, 91):
deVoogd, Peter. “Imaging Eveline: Visualized Focalization in James Joyce’s Dubliners.”
European Journal of English Studies 4 (2000): 39-48.
Dilworth, Thomas. “The Numina of Joyce’s ‘Eveline.’” Studies in Short Fiction 15, issue 4 (Fall,
78): 456-8.
Florio, Joseph. “Joyce’s ‘Eveline.’” Explicator 51 (Spring, 93): 181-5.
French, Marilyn. “Missing Pieces in Joyce’s Dubliners.” Twentieth Century Literature 24, issue
4, (Winter, 78): 443-72.
Ingersoll, Earl G. “The Psychic Geography of Joyce’s Dubliners.” New Hibernia Review 6.4
(2002): 98-107.
Ingersoll, Earl G. “The Stigma of Femininity in James Joyce’s ‘Eveline’ and ‘The Boarding
House.’” Studies in Short Fiction (Fall, 93): 1-4.
Joyce, James. “Eveline” in Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading,
Thinking, and Writing, 7th ed. New York: Bedford, 2005. 516-8.
Mosher Jr., Harold F. “The Narrated and Its Negatives: The Nonnarrated and The Disnarrated in
Joyces’s Dubliners.” Style 27, issue 3, (Fall, 93): 407-27.
Rice, Thomas Jackson. “Paradigm Lost: ‘Grace’ and the arrangement of Dubliners.” Studies in
Short Fiction (Summer, 95): 1-13.
William, Trevor L. “No Cheer for the Gratefully Oppressed in Joyce’s Dubliners.” Style 25,
issue 3 (Fall, 91): 416-38.