In "Eveline," what is the overwhelming characteristic of Eveline’s youthful memories?

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Ditta Sylvester eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.

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