What causes the decision taken by Eveline not to elope with Frank in "Eveline"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eveline's history is one of repression; moreover, what Joyce defines as paralysis propels the story of "Eveline." And, it is because of this paralysis that Eveline cannot bring herself to elope with Frank.

For the most part, the demands of her Irish-Catholic background determine Eveline's decisions. There is Eveline's obedience to her mother's last wishes that she hold the family together, and to her father, who

...had found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say to him [Frank]."

There is in her house the hanging promise of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque for security and blessings in life for those who keep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Before Eveline goes to the station, she prays for guidance from God, and when the boat's whistle blows in the mist, Eveline says a silent and fervent prayer; as she does so, "[A] bell clanged upon her heart." This bell is the conditioning of her religious faith and her domestic servility, and she surrenders to it.

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

Eveline is paralyzed by her uncertainty and her sense of duty; she forsakes escape and love for the past, trapped psychologically by her religious beliefs and promises. 

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