"Eveline" by James Joyce, what is meant by the phrase " to keep the home together as long as she could "?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As James Joyce's story, "Eveline" opens, the main character sits at the window where "she was tired."  Here the implication is that Eveline is a victim of abuse from her drunkard father.  In her internal monologue, she reflects that "now she had nobody to protect her" since her brother Ernest is dead and Harry is always gone "somewhere in the country."

Leaning at the window, Eveline refelcts upon her life, a hard life, but in contemplating her departure, she perceives her life as not "wholly undesirable."  On her lap are two letters, one to her father, and one to Harry.  With the smell of cretonne from the curtains, and the street organ playing, Eveline is reminded of her dead mother, who made her promise to care for her father and "keep the home "together," which means to take care of the father and children as if she were the mother, to replace the dying mother.

At the station, Eveline is suddenly gripped by a psychological paralysis that makes it impossible for her to move.  Eveline cannot assert herself in psychological freedom and, so she surrenders to  the life she knows in order to keep the home together.

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