In "Eveline" what is the significance of this passage: All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her. Reflect on the significance of this passage in the context of the story's outcome

Expert Answers

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

The passage cited exemplifies what Joyce termed paralysis. In the frustrating awareness of her powerlessness to do anything about changing her life, Eveline is spiritually and mentally paralyzed.  Like many of James Joyce's protagonists, she finds herself at the point of leaving her oppressed life and setting out upon a new one; however, as the victim of self-deception, religious servility, and dependency, as she clutches the iron railing in "frenzy," Eveline's mind shouts, 

No! No! No! It was impossible....Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish.

When the moment of departure on the ship with her sailor arrives, Eveline surrenders pathetically to her old life, the circumstances that she feels are beyond her control, and her subservient personality.  For, she has made promises to the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque and her mother to care for her brother, and she feels obligated to protect him from their abusive father.  Even as she has reflected upon her subservient life at home and at work before her day of departure, Eveline has thought,

It was hard work--a hard life--but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

Therefore, when Eveline's sailor calls to her, she feels he will "drown her" spiritually if she abandons her familial obligations. And, so, she becomes paralyzed, a victim again of her inadequacies and the predicament of a "battered woman."

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team