What symbols does Joyce use in "Eveline"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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One symbol that appears at the conclusion of the story "Eveline" is the iron rail that Eveline clutches so tightly in her dazed confusion. Since while in her confused state she continues to muse over the same questions and mouth the same unvoiced prayers to understand what her duty is, it might be said that the rail she clutches is the symbol of her act of clutching steadfastly to her confusion. It is her confusion--that she resolves but pursues yet again--that leads to her frozen immobility and inability to decide. At the moment during which she is clutching the rail her eyes show no sign of cognition, feeling, recognition; they only have a blank frenzied animal stare to them. The cold rigid rail is a good symbol of this death of her humanity and human reason.

Another symbol is Buenos Ayres which is translated to English as "good air." Joyce surrounds Eveline with stifling air; even the curtains framing the window through which she listens to the organ grinder smell of dust, meaning she has long neglected them and their cleaning. In Buenos Aires is the promise of life sustaining air to breath and the hope of a healthy life of happiness. It is this promise that conflicts with the oppressive ideas of duty that bind Eveline to a life that is choking the breath and life out of her.

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