Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
If what James Joyce intended to demonstrate in all the stories in Dubliners (1914) was the squalor and spiritual impoverishment of typical Irish lives, then “Eveline” is unquestionably in keeping with this general intent. Although still a young woman, Eveline dwells on the past, on the debilitating nostalgia of how things were when her mother was still alive and when her father was “not so bad.” She takes solace in childhood memories, dwelling on playmates and siblings who are now either dead or gone. She cannot fully imagine a future away from her family, her neighborhood, or her nation, and when it comes time for her to take her life into her own hands, she is paralyzed and unable to act.
The theme of escape will be a familiar one for those who have read Joyce’s semiautobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) or its earlier and even more personalized version, Stephen Hero (1944), written between 1904 and 1906 and ultimately published as a fragment after Joyce’s death. “Eveline,” also written in 1904, was inspired by one of the writer’s neighbors when the Joyce family lived at 17 North Richmond Street in Dublin. Eveline Thornton, the daughter of Ned Thornton, fell in love with a sailor, whom she married and with whom she ultimately set up housekeeping in Dublin, according to Richard Ellmann, Joyce’s biographer. Not only did the prototypical Eveline marry her sailor, but also her mother outlived her. Joyce was writing fiction, however, not biography, and the principal...
(The entire section is 635 words.)
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