How old is Eveline? Is her age important for any reason?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the exposition of Joyce's story, Eveline is described during her interior monologue as "over nineteen." This age is significant as it is the opportune time for her to leave home and become a bride. Within the context of the setting of Dublin in the early 1900's, women married in their late teens or early twenties, and those who were older had a difficult time finding husbands.

The protagonist Eveline sits musing at the dusty window. During one of her reflections, she contemplates how things may be after she marries and reaches a new home; her hope is that she will be respected. Yet, it is with trepidation that she has such musings. Like many abused women (as is hinted in the opening paragraph), she is emotionally tied to her home, especially because she worries that her little brother may be on the receiving end of the father's drunken wrath if she were to depart.

As with many of Joyce's Dubliners, Eveline experiences what the author labeled as a spiritual paralysis.

It was hard work--a hard life--but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

Here Eveline's age is significant because if she does not venture forth on her own, she may well end as a spinster who cares for her brother and aging father--"her father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her." Eveline sits at the window, the two letters she has begun growing indistinct in the waning light. "Her time was running out, but she continued to sit by the window."

When she finally pulls herself away, Eveline still prays that God will direct her to know "what was her duty." His proposal to take her to Buenos Aires and another world frightens Eveline too much and she cannot leave. Her insufficiency of will and independence defeats the nineteen-year-old Eveline, and she will remain as a housekeeper for her father to whom there seems a psychological attachment and as protector for her little brother. 

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