Discuss the opening and ending of "Eveline" by James Joyce. Compare this with the opening and ending of Romeo and Juliet. 

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Joyce's short story "Eveline" and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are about star-crossed lovers. Eveline lives in near-poverty, working with her father to care for the home and provide money, as well as caring for two children. She doesn't like him much, as he beat her brothers growing up; she has come to fear him, particularly on Saturday nights, when he is worse, and "he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother's sake." She has courted her seafaring lover for a while now, but when her father found out, he forbade her to see him because "I know these sailor chaps," implying that all sailors are the same and are only after one thing. 

Further, Eveline doesn't like her female boss who degrades her in front of customers. She knows she has only the unpleasant "known" here with her family and people she grew up with, and beyond, with her lover, lies married life and (she assumes) respect in an unknown foreign place. 

She is thinking rationally about her choice to leave for Buenes Aires with her lover or stay home where she knows she is unhappy. In the end, she decides (on the docks, as her lover is pushed along with the crowd toward the waiting ship, still calling to her) that she cannot leave. She watches him go without emotion or expression. 

Romeo and Juliet is far more dramatic and romantic, albeit far less realistic. Their "houses" (clans) are locked in an ancient feud, so it is unthinkable that they even see one another socially from the beginning, let alone marry. Romeo is also a charming young man, a lover (to the point of being in love with love), who falls madly, hopelessly in love with Juliet after only glimpsing her from afar, exclaiming, "Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! / For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night" (I.5). 

Juliet obviously falls just as quickly. Immediately after meeting him (clandestinely, of course), she speaks with her nurse, asking who he is, learning that he is Romeo Montague. She says, "Prodigious birth of love it is to me, / That I must love a loathed enemy" (I.5). 

Thus are they automatically forbidden to see one another, let alone court. But they are in love, so they are married in secret (in Act II), then--due to his involvement in a duel--Romeo is banished from Verona, where Juliet and her family live. Friar Lawrence, who wed them, comes up with a plan to help Juliet not have to marry Paris, to whom she is now betrothed, and to be able to escape without her family's knowing and live in happiness with Romeo: she must take a potion that will make her appear stone dead for 42 hours; during this time, she will be placed in the her family's burial vault and Friar Lawrence will send a letter to Romeo advising him to come get her. The plan backfires, though, and Romeo doesn't get the letter. He hears that she is dead, buys some poison, goes to view the body, and drinks the potion, having determined that he cannot live without her. Juliet awakes to find him dead and, coming to the same conclusion, takes his dagger and kills herself. 

Eveline is not nearly so outrageously unrealistic or driven by childish hormones. Her life is unpleasant, but not without its joys, and she chooses her dull life over life with her lover. Perhaps she is in love, as well, but she's more mature and realistic than the 13- and 14-year-old Juliet and Romeo. 

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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