What is Eveline's turning point in her life in Joyce's "Eveline"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Eveline" is the last story in James Joyce's The Dead that contains an epiphany, or a sudden realization within the character. It begins with Eveline's contemplation of the life she plans to leave: an abusive father, a marginalized existence in which she is in a demeaning position at work as well as in the home.

But, above all, Eveline cannot escape her misgivings about leaving her little brother, nor the promises that she has made to her mother. Tragically, the assertion of psychological freedom is impossible for Eveline. Surrendering to her circumstances, Eveline becomes paralyzed when it is time to jump onto the ship with her sailor, who entreats her, "Eveline! Evvy!" And, so, Eveline foresakes freedom, love, and life for her past, duty, and living death.

He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow.  He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive,like a helpless animal.  Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.

Eveline feels that Frank will drown her in the water that is symbolic of rejuvenation. Her incapability of striking out on her own is her ephiphany,or realization.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eveline's turning point is her sudden realization that she cannot truly escape her past. Among other things, this means that she can no longer seriously envisage any future with Frank; her past has effectively destroyed her future. Now she exists purely and solely in the present. As she stands there on the dock, mute and insensible, it's as if she's been frozen in time. The world around her continues to turn, Frank's ship will leave for Buenos Aires, and life will go on much as before, but Eveline remains trapped in a world of her own. More importantly, it is a world of her own making, a world that she's chosen to inhabit despite the degradation of the daily grind and her father's drunken violence.

Eveline's decision can be seen as an epiphany, not least because it takes place after she says a little prayer. We can never know what, if any, divine guidance Eveline may have received. But there can be little doubt that things are different now. Her life hasn't been changed forever, though; it's been neatly preserved in ice––safe from the natural decay of time but also incapable of growth and maturity.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arguably, the turning point for Eveline happens when she meets Frank, a young man who wants to marry her and set up a new life abroad.

Prior to meeting Frank, Eveline's life is restrictive and is mainly centered on her domestic responsibilities at home. This is shown clearly in the text. Eveline, for example, is portrayed as "working hard" to keep her family together. In addition, she cares for her two younger siblings who need a mother figure in their lives.

Meeting Frank, however, prompts huge changes in Eveline's life, as we see from the line, "She was about to explore another life with Frank."

In other words, her life is about to change dramatically. Instead of devoting herself to her family in Ireland, Eveline has the opportunity to start afresh in Buenos Aires with Frank. This turning point prompts much reflection from Eveline and creates considerable apprehension and conflict. In the end, however, Eveline is unable to leave her family behind and chooses to stay in Ireland.

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