James Joyce's story "Eveline" portrays the internal reality of a disappointing and repressive existence. In doing so, Joyce employs several literary techniques:
There are several religious allusions. The dust refers to the ashes given before Lent as a reminder of man's mortality; the saints and the priest are reminders of the domination of the Catholic Church in this Irish family. Eveline "prays to God to direct her."
The background of Eveline's past with the neighborhood that has changed, the abusive father, and her promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque add meaning to the current action of the plot.
As Eveline sits at the window and ponders her consent to go away, she recalls her childhood and her abusive father. There was the "invariable squabble for money" as well and all the hard work of taking care of the house.
While she considers her promise to leave with the sailor Frank, and how people will treat her with respect in the new place. Eveline envisions her supervisor at work being glad that she has left, and recalls the details of what Miss Gavan has always criticized. She also ponders her new life with Frank.
As an abused child and depressed young woman whose also has strong religious ties with her promises to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, as well as her promise to her dying mother to care for her younger brother, it appears that it will be difficult for Eveline to leave her family. In addition, Frank is a sailor who has traveled around the world and suggests moving to Buenos Aires, a city of many emigrants and adventurers where there may be temptations for him.
The funereal atmosphere of cretonne and dust and brown in the exposition of the story suggests the depressive state of Eveline and the dismal quality of her life and the future death of her dream of escape.
The religious imagery of the saints and the priest suggest the tremendous oppression of Eveline's Catholicism with its obligations.
The promise of the Sacred Heart, “I will give peace in their homes,” is not kept; and the promises that Eveline has made to the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque seem falsified by the fact that this beatified person engaged secretly in severe corporal mortifications upon herself until paralysis confined her to bed for four years. Of course, the irony of her paralysis cannot be missed, either.
Eveline tries to convince herself by repeating, "Frank would save her....He would save her."
9. Stream of Consciousness
Most of the narrative of this story is written as the interior monologue of Eveline.
10. Thematic Patterning
Throughout Eveline's interior monologue of the past and of her future hopes, there is the motif of paralysis. Eveline cannot control her own life; instead, she sees herself as a victim of her father's abuse and Miss Gavan's control and her religious obligations.