What is the significance of the title Eveline by James Joyce?

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It's possible to read too much into the title of the story. Joyce is much more concerned with what Eveline as a character represents rather than the significance of her name. That said, it is unlikely in the extreme that a man who savored the origins of names and words...

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It's possible to read too much into the title of the story. Joyce is much more concerned with what Eveline as a character represents rather than the significance of her name. That said, it is unlikely in the extreme that a man who savored the origins of names and words as much as Joyce will have been unaware that Eveline ultimately comes from the Hebrew word meaning life.

Without wishing to stretch the point too far, one could argue that Eveline's name is significant as the title of the story as it concerns a decision that will change the protagonist's life forever. As we've already seen, Eveline comes from the Hebrew word for life and so it's somewhat appropriate that a story that revolves around a major turning point in one woman's life should bear that name.

In the story's climactic scene, as she stands rooted to the spot at the quayside while her lover Frank takes off for a new life in Buenos Aires, Eveline has made a fateful decision in terms of her life's future direction. In opting to stay in Ireland instead of taking the plunge and joining Frank in Argentina, Eveline has changed the course of what remains of her life.

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While one can look towards the symbolic meaning of the name "Eveline," on a less abstract level, one should also keep in mind that Eveline is a young woman's name. Indeed, the story of "Eveline" isn't really very much plot-focused at all: it's a psychological study of a young woman as she struggles between two paths she might follow, which will proceed to shape the rest of her life. Eveline can remain in Ireland, continuing a life that is miserable but familiar, or take a risk, get married and embark into the unknown. It's her psychological struggle, as she's torn between these two potential futures, that shapes this short story.

With this in mind, on a purely literal level, the decision to name this story "Eveline" reflects this story's intense focus on the character of Eveline herself, and the way that it aims to depict (in great detail) a psychological and literary portrait of a young woman, as she exists within a singular moment in time.

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Joyce names his story Eveline because it revolves around the decisions made by the main character, Eveline, and is told from her point-of-view. Ultimately, it is about Eveline making a choice over her identity: will she remain the diminutive daughter—Little Eve—of an abusive father or will she marry Frank and leave Ireland to forge a new identity?

In the end, Eveline chooses to remain the same Eveline she has always been: one who is dutiful, obedient, and self-sacrificing. Offered the chance to escape that fate, she becomes paralyzed with fear and decides to remain in her constricted life—in large part because she has been indoctrinated that way. She is the born Eveline through and through and will remain that Eveline.

Eveline's name also does bring to mind the Biblical Eve, the first woman, who was faced with a similar decision between obedience/duty and desire. The first Eve gave into desire and this Eve(line) does not, but the second Eve's decision to reject desire is no more fulfilling than the original Eve's decision to challenge God. Eveline's name could well imply that there is no good choice for her or women in her situation.

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The name Eveline means "little, or small, Eve" which is Hebrew for "life." Of course, the connotations associated with the name Eve are those of the first woman who tempted her mate Adam with the apple from the serpert, an act which expelled them from the Garden of Eden.

On the other hand, the meaning of "life" and the diminutive suffix of -lyn, or -line suggest that Eveline lives a small life, which certainly seems to be her situation as she sits in the darkening window, feeling "tired." In fact, the concept of paralysis drives the narrative of "Eveline." For, as Eveline leans her head against the curtains of "dusty cretonne," she dwells on her life, limited by the violence of her father, her obligations to her brothers, and the demeaning treatment of Miss Gavan. Indeed, she seems prohibited from attaining happiness and respect, trapped in a stultifying life of obligations.

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.

Eveline's paralysis leads her to find some sense of security in her stifling life because she fears the unknown. Thus, when "[A] bell clanged upon her heart, and her sailor Frank seizes her hand, Eveline fears the future--"he would drown her"--and she refuses to move. She forsakes escape, life and love, instead choosing the past, her obligations, and death-in-life, not unlike the first Eve who lost much after her fateful decision in the Garden of Eden. 

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