Is Eveline's decision to stay back logical?  "Eveline" by James Joyce

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two motifs of Joyce's are present in his story, "Eveline":  the stultifying effect of Catholicism upon the Irish people, and the emotional paralysis of the Irish.  Clearly, these two motifs enter into a discussion of Eveline's decision to remain at home and not run off with Frank to Buenos Aires. 

First of all, Eveline is ridden with guilt over the fourth commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother."  For, she has promised her dying mother that she will care for her little brother. 

Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ playing.  She knew the air.  Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could.

If she leaves there will be no paycheck to give her father, and there will be no sister to intervene when the father becomes physically abusive.  Eveline's sense of keeping the family together is too strong for her to run from; the yellowing photograph of the priest serves as a constant reminder of this.  Then, there is also her emotional ties to her brother.  She worries that if she leaves, the boy will be abused by the father and left without someone to mother and love him.  Eveline becomes paralyzed by this fear; like a mother, she cannot leave her child, no matter how attractive the man or the world outside.  Her decisions to remain are predominantly emotional:

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....All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart.