What is the main characteristic of Eveline's youthful memories in "Eveline"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

James Joyce's Eveline is a young girl living in Ireland. She takes very seriously her promise to her deceased mother to try to care for her father and two siblings. Much of Eveline's time is spent gazing out of a window in her father's house. That window looks out onto a field where local children used to play. Eveline's memories are characterized by the events of the past. The present is not how things used to be, and she is so trapped in the past that she neglects her first opportunity to leave home and be free.

Brick buildings now occupy the field Eveline sees through the window. Her brother, who grew too big to play there, is now dead, and many of the children have moved away. The picture of a priest, a former family friend, evokes even more fond memories. Eveline works at a shop, the earnings from which she gives to her father. He uses her earnings to get drunk, and the possibility that he will abuse Eveline physically, like he did her mother, looms large.

Eveline is nineteen when she meets Frank, a sailor. He wants to marry and take her to Buenos Aires with him. She is very tempted, but the past gets in her way. The reader finds Eveline gazing through the window, holding her farewell letters and remembering better times with her family. Memories of the past have stifled Eveline's future possibilities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It might be said that the overwhelming characteristic, or tone, of Eveline's youthful memories in james Joyce's short story "Eveline" is mournfulness. There are bright spots, such as when as children she and her brothers played in the field, which was also when "father was not so bad then" and "mother was alive." There are also moments of felt love, such as when she thinks that caring for the young children is not a "wholly undesirable life." Yet, the overall characteristic is mournful regret for the violence she has witnessed and experienced; for the family betrayal of familial love and devotion and care; for the fearful hiding and tearful feelings.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the overwhelming characteristics of Eveline's youthful memories in "Eveline"?

The comparison that we are given between the present and Eveline's memories of the past is very different. The past seems to occupy a special place in Eveline's memory of happiness and tranquil freedom. Note what the text tells us about what she remembers about the field near her home before it was used for building houses:

One time there used to be a field there in which they used to play every evening with other people's children... The children of the avenue used to play together in that field--the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns, little Keogh the cripple, she and her brothers and sisters... Still they seemed to have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then; and besides, her mother was alive.

Since her childhood memories of freedom and being able to play with the local children from her neighbourhood, it seems as if a whole succession of bad things have impacted Eveline's life. She hs grown up, her mother has died, her relationship with her father has worsened. As the narrator comments, "Everything changes." The innocence of childhood is therefore reminisced over with considerable happiness, especially given the momentous decision that Eveline must make in the present. Innocence has been exchanged for experience and the complicated world of being an adult.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on