In "Eveline," what decision does Eveline make at the end of the story and why?
In "Eveline," the decision that Eveline makes at the end of the story is to stay put in Ireland instead of leaving with her lover, Frank, for Argentina. She makes this decision because she is in the grip of a debilitating inertia that prevents her from making necessary changes to her life. In that sense, for Joyce, she symbolizes contemporary Ireland, with its parochialism, lack of ambition, and cultural paralysis.
Right up until the end of "Eveline," it seems that the eponymous character is going to take a leap of faith and head off with her lover, Frank, halfway round the world to start a new life in Argentina. Eveline certainly has no good reason to stay where she is. Slaving away as an unpaid skivvy for an abusive father and toiling long hours at a low-paid job at the "Stores," Eveline leads a very hard, unhappy life in her native country.
And yet, despite all her many problems, Eveline chooses to stay put. Instead of joining Frank aboard the ship bound for Argentina, she remains rooted to the spot by the quayside, almost as if she's frozen in fear. To most people reading the story, Eveline's decision doesn't really make much sense. But in...
(The entire section contains 2 answers and 414 words.)
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
When Eveline arrives at the North Wall to board the boat with Frank, she is shown to experience a sudden, shocking epiphany as she is about to board the ship that will take her away with Frank to start a new life and grant her the escape that she desires. We learn that she seems unwilling to finalize her plan to leave. She prays to God to make a decision for her rather than having to make it by herself. The questions that come to our mind are – why is she asking God to show her what her duty is, when she already knows that? Instead, is she not supposed to ask God to show her what her way is? And why has she come to the station if she still has not made her decision? All the textual clues suggest that she is too intimidated to accept the new world, like other characters in Dubliners. Her action also shows her inability to take charge of her own life, as she has to leave the decision to a higher authority such as God. We can see that she is paralyzed by the impact the overwhelming call of duty has on her, which is symbolized by the promise she made to her mother before she died, as something that she is unable to escape from.
Eveline feels she is being trapped. It is as though she is doing Frank a favor. She seems to worry that she will let him down if she does not go with him. As he urges her to come to board the ship, she is paralyzed and utterly terrified by the new world he is pushing her towards:
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.
The image of her metaphorical drowning, which symbolizes fleeing both God and her responsibilities, keeps her frozen to the iron railing. Eveline experiences a literal paralysis that becomes more powerful than her desire to leave her home. When she refuses to go with Frank, she is described as "passive, like a helpless animal," which clearly indicates that she lacks agency and the ability to leave her home for something unpredictable as Buenos Aires. Eveline’s conviction that “everything changes” is ironically refuted at the end of the story as she decides to stay in Dublin.