What literary devices could I use to trace the theme of paralysis throughout "Eveline"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly, religious allusions play a large part in the paralysis of Eveline, who is haunted by her promises to the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, a beatified nun who introduced devotion to the Sacret Heart of Jesus.  Her strong Catholic faith, which Joyce himself felt stultified the individuality of the Irish, also effects Eveline's paralysis as she stands praying to God "to direct her, and to show her what was her duty" because nothing happens. The photograph of the priest, symbolic of the strong role of religion as well as emigration as his name is unknown, suggests that Eveline may lose spiritual identity by emigrating. Her name, too, is a religious allusion. With her biblical name, little Eve, she must make a spiritual choice between the "good" devotion of a daughter and the potential evil in running off unmarried with a man.

Another symbol is Death, which is prevalent throughout the narrative, in memories of the mother and Ernest. In one instance, in which Eveline has the "pitiful vision" of her mother's life, the utterance of the famous crux, "Derevaun Seraun!  Derevaun Seraun!"--is an aural symbol of death that Eveline realizes at a subconscious level.  This phrase is generally assumed to be corrupt Gaelic and may mean "the end of pleasure is pain" or "the end of song is raving madness."

In addition to the religious allusions and symbolism, the connotations of certain words help to bring about Eveline's paralysis.  For instance, that she is going to marry a sailor suggests a certain instability to her relationship with Frank, who may easily meet someone else in another port, not to mention his being gone much of the time.  The connotations of the city of Buenos Ayres are also negative as it is a foreign city that at the time of this story attracted many adventurers.  The phrase "Going to Buenos Ayres" was also then slang for taking up a life of prostitution.

The metaphoric phrases "A bell clanged upon her heart" and "he would drown her" indicate that Eveline is suffering from an inability to move forward mentally as she contemplates boarding the ship.  Feeling as though there is danger in her leaving, Eveline grips the iron railing, a railing that is symbolic of the strong, but corroded ties that she has to her dysfunctional family. For, it is as though Eveline is figuratively in irons, handcuffed or chained; she is a prisoner to her self-deception, religious servility, and dependency upon her family.