What sort of person is Eveline's mother? Does Eveline identify with her mother in any way?

Expert Answers

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

In James Joyce’s short story, “Eveline ,” the character of Eveline’s mother doesn’t appear directly, but only in the memory of her 19-year-old daughter. Eveline is in the midst of deciding whether she should escape her difficult home life to run off with a sailor, or if she...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In James Joyce’s short story, “Eveline,” the character of Eveline’s mother doesn’t appear directly, but only in the memory of her 19-year-old daughter. Eveline is in the midst of deciding whether she should escape her difficult home life to run off with a sailor, or if she should stay at home and care for her abusive father now that her mother has passed away. From her daughter’s recollections, Eveline’s mother seems to have been rather timid and passive, and she appears to have put her duties as a housewife and mother above any personal wishes.

As Eveline makes her decision whether to stay or go, she “mused the pitiful vision of her mother's life...” Eveline knows what kind of difficult, unfulfilled life lies ahead of her if she stays to care for her aging father. She imagines the freedom she would have with Frank, the sailor, whom she describes as “very kind, manly, open-hearted.” In the end, Eveline decides to stay in her old life, which would suggest that she identifies with her mother more than perhaps she’d like to admit.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Eveline's mother has been an abused woman; however, there is some unconscious identification with the mother on the part of Eveline as she fears violence from her father, and she is certainly subjected to verbal abuse and "a hard life" and "a pitiful vision" that she is unable to leave. 

Indeed, there is a tie between Eveline and her mother. As she ponders the "pitiful vision of her mother's life," there is a spell that falls upon Eveline as she hears her mother's final frenzied cries, "Derevau Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!"[The end of pleasure is pain!] Like her mother, Eveline feels trapped, paralyzed by inaction, too weak to leave her life in which she, too, takes some abuse.

Certainly, it is with ambivalence that Eveline leaves for the station where Frank waits for her. Once there, she prays, hoping for Divine guidance because, like her mother, Eveline cannot assert herself and attain psychological freedom from her father and her little brother. As Frank calls to her, Eveline, like her mother, surrenders pathetically to her circumstances, again deceiving herself. The end of her pleasure of contemplating escape with Frank is now ended painfully as she stands "passive, like a helpless animal."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team