Why isn't Frank physically described even though his background is given in "Eveline"?"Eveline" by James Joyce.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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On the contrary, James Joyce does, in fact, describe Frank in "Eveline." He describes him subtly and uses one of the methods of character description that opposes the popular method of giving detailed descriptions of all the character's features. You'll find, if you look closely, that many of the most famous authors, such as Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped), Mark Twain (The Prince and the Pauper), and Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility), use subtle and limited methods of description to paint their characters and that these characters live as some of the most immortal characters in English literature.

Joyce describes Frank's inner qualities first, saying that Frank is "very kind, manly, open-hearted." He next describes Frank's clothing, saying he wore a "peaked cap pushed back on his head." Joyce next describes Frank's physical appearance, indicating that Frank has lots of floppy hair that tumbles forward onto a "face of bronze." Then Joyce describes Frank's personal tastes, saying Frank is "awfully fond of music and sang a little." Finally he describes Frank's occupation, saying Frank "started as a deck boy...on a ship of the Allan Line."

Along with the options of utilizing direct and indirect character description, there are various theories of character description. One theory of character description states that the thing of first importance in descriptions is the character's qualities of inner being. Another states that the first thing of importance is the character's occupation, whether a clergyman, a sailor, or wealthy lord, etc. Another states that the first thing of importance is the character's feelings and emotions, for example that a character feels earnestly about injustice and is moved to anger quickly or feels very little about the sorrows of others and has a tendency to emotions of melancholy. One theory that is very popular today and was used with great success by Chaucer in describing the Wif of Bathe states that the first thing of importance is the physical appearance and that the description must start at the tip of the head and end at the toes or the toe of the shoes. James Joyce followed the theory that starts with inner qualities: He begins with Franks inner qualities and ends with Frank's occupation.

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