How does Eveline review her decision to embark on a new life with Frank?James Joyce's "Eveline"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In James Joyce's Dubliners of the 1900s, the assertion of psychological freedom is impossible because of the historical, political, and social patterning of Ireland.  Eveline is an example of this tragic Irish who is caught in circumstances that seem beyond her control.

As she is "about to explore another life with Frank," Eveline is seated at the window of her house with its odor of "dusty cretonne," a smell which suggests the death of her dream of going to Buenos Ayres, an exotic place which attracted Europeans at the time.  Yet, she recalls how she has met Frank, who is kind, manly, and open-hearted; he has taken her to the opera and sung to her much to her romantic delight.

However, as the evening grows darker, two letters written to her brother and her father that rest upon her lap become indistinct. As she thinks of her father, there is this same lack of clarity in her memories, for, Eveline recalls both his kindness and his cruelty.  This ambiguity suggests that her convictions are wavering further, until she smells the funereal odor of the curtains, and Eveline is reminded of her mother and of the promises made to her.  Her mother's last words, said "with foolish insistence"--"Derevaun Seraun!"--"the end of pleasure is pain"--seem prophetic now, but Eveline hopes defiantly that Frank "would save her." Still, she is unconvinced as she is filled with guilt about the promise that she would keep the "home together as long as she could." Indeed, there is much wavering in her intentions as Eveline reviews her decision to embark upon a new life with the sailor Frank. In the end, she decides to return where her journey has begun rather than to continue on the journey.