Although the story “Eveline” is famous in its own right, it is difficult to categorize by itself since it is an integral tale in James Joyce’s short-story collection Dubliners (London, 1914). The collection, as a whole, presents a glimpse into the lives of average Dubliners of various ages and conditions during the close of the nineteenth century. Joyce, in his youth, was heavily influenced by the Norwegian dramatist, Henrik Ibsen, and incorporated his naturalistic or realistic style into the tales; the stories do not sugar-coat the day-to-day life of Dubliners, but present difficult themes of alienation, emigration, sexuality, and the struggle of a humdrum existence. Upon the book’s reception, Joyce was criticized for emphasizing a side of Irish life that many did not want to acknowledge. Among the themes he broaches is the plight of woman in Irish society. Joyce, borrowing from new ideas in psychoanalysis, acknowledges streams of consciousness in his work. “Eveline” is an early, rather concise example of an author emphasizing the internal reality of a heroine and her attempt to deal with her environment. The story illustrates the social conditions that women in Ireland faced in the latter years of the nineteenth century.
In “Eveline,” Joyce’s presents the dilemma faced by a young woman who must either care for her father and children or flee her homeland with a sailor who has made a rather ambiguous proposal. Although seemingly a straight-forward tale, the writing style is unique for its era since the action takes place in the protagonist’s mind, as descriptions of the heroine’s reaction to internal and external impressions and memories.