How is the scene when Eveline has an epiphany about leaving with Frank substantial?"Eveline" by James Joyce

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In James Joyce's "Eveline" as Frank grabs her hand, "A bell clanged upon her heart." This "bell" is the reminder of all her promises, both to her mother and the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. Because of the profound influence of the Catholic Church's teachings and the religious instruction in school, Eveline feels obligated to these commitments. In addition to the religious implications of her obligations, there is the prohibitiveness of her running off with a man when Eveline is not married to him.

Besides these considerations, Eveline has been conditioned to be servile. She works hard "at business" and at home, subjugated to her father's demands as he is physically abusive.  That she is conditioned to her servility is evinced in these lines:

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.

Another consideration of Eveline's hesitation about leaving home with Frank is the fact that he is a sailor and she is purportedly going to live as his wife in Buenos Ayres, a thriving city which attracted many European immigrants and adventurers. However, the phrase "Going to Buenos Ayres" was also slang for taking up a life of prostitution, so whether Frank who will be gone frequently will make the best of husbands as a sailor whether Buenos Ayres is a suitable place to live are both dubious.  Therefore, when Eveline experiences her epiphany and suffers her psychological paralysis, there is, indeed, substance to it.