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I have read all of James Joyce's Dubliners at least twice over many years, but I downloaded "Eveline" and read it again in order to try to answer your question. I think the first time I read the story as a college student I felt that things had always been tough in Ireland and that this was just an example of how tough things were. It helped to explain why so many Irish people had emigrated to America. Having read the story again just now, I felt very sad for this poor exploited girl and wished she had gone off to Buenos Ayres with the man who apparently loved her. She had a duty to herself, as well as a commitment to Frank, which should have overridden her felt duty to her family. I would have liked to see her bullying, ungrateful father left to take care of himself and the two younger children. I can't say that I "enjoyed" the story, but I read it with interest, and it left me with the feeling of pity and compassion Joyce intended.
Joyce left Ireland himself because he felt suffocated by the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church in every aspect of Irish life. "Eveline" is about a girl who is unable to escape from the strict code of morality with which she had been indoctrinated since earliest childhood. The conflict is one of man against himself--or in this case of woman against herself. She is a virtual slave to a brutal father in this patriarchal society which is sanctioned by the Church. Her father quarrels with Frank because he obviously doesn't want to lose a daughter who is both provider and house slave. Because of her mother's death, Eveline feels duty-bound to care for her two younger siblings. She has to work as a waitress and also serve as housekeeper and surrogate mother, doing all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. She is harassed by a Miss Gavan where she works, and cannot even feel secure in keeping her job. She leads a cheerless, thankless existence (like so many other characters in Dubliners). Her conflict is described early in the story in her own thoughts:
O course she had to work hard, both in the house and at business. What would they say of her in the Stores when they found out that she had run away with a fellow?
One of her concerns is that she would be committing a mortal sin by running off with a man without being married. She cannot know for sure whether Frank really intends to marry her. It is a mortal sin to marry a non-Catholic, and it is not stated whether Frank is a Catholic or not.
As in many of his short stories in Dubliners, Joyce uses the heroine of "Eveline" to make Dublin and ireland in general seem like "a good place to be from."
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