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In "Eveline," did Eveline truly believe that she would be capable of leaving Dublin at...

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invisible62 | eNoter

Posted October 19, 2011 at 4:37 PM via web

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In "Eveline," did Eveline truly believe that she would be capable of leaving Dublin at any point of her life?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 20, 2011 at 2:09 AM (Answer #1)

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In James Joyce's Dubliners, of which the story "Eveline" is part, all the adolescents are failures, and Eveline certainly is one. From the dark beginning until the end, Eveline has a sense of her own powerlessness. 

In the exposition, for instance, a fatigued Eveline sits at a west [symbolic of death and an end] window of her dismal brown house whose curtains smell of dust, a scene suggestive of her failure to come.  There is foreshadowing of her indecision and paralysis as she looks around the room and conjectures,

Perhaps, she would never see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided.

In addition, there are innuendoes of her religious servility as Eveline remembers her promises that she made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, promises that hinder her decisiveness.  Further, Eveline has misgivings about the strength of her abilities as she reflects how Miss Gavan at work "always had an edge on her" and she hopes that she will be treated "with respect" in her new home.  With more misgivings, Eveline later ponders her conditions at home: her father's violence countered by her feelings that

It was hard work--a hard life--but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

Then, too, there are the promises Eveline has made to her mother:

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.

With all these impediments to Eveline's departure as well as an uncertain future with a sailor in the foreign city of Buenos Aires, a city known for adventurers and prostitutes,  Eveline entertains many doubts about breaking free of her old life; consequently, she Frank calls to her to board the ship for the New World, Eveline becomes a victim of what Joyce called the Irish paralysis. 

[see the essay on Eveline and signs of paralysis]

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 19, 2011 at 6:45 PM (Answer #3)

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This is a rather difficult question to answer authoritatively, because I don't believe the text necessarily gives us a clear answer to this question. However, my own personal opinion is that Eveline's decision to stay in Ireland was inevitable. This is primarily because of the way that from the very beginning of the text, doubt is introduced to her thinking about going. Consider the very first paragraph which says "She was tired." Clearly, given what we know from later on in the story, she is tired because of the massive conflict going on within her. The introduction of words such as "Perhaps" and phrases like "Was that wise?" help trace the internal conflict that she experiences. However, what finally seems to hammer the final nail into the coffin of her life in Ireland is the memory of her mother and the way that she lived her life:

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.

It is the memory of her mother above all that gives her the impetus to flee, but as she is actually on the point of leaving, it is that same memory that makes her realise she can never flee. The way that she is described in the last few lines of the story as being "passive, like a helpless animal" clearly indicates that in a sense the inability to go was not her choice and she is being led by larger forces and inclinations that she has no power over.

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