What is the structure of James Joyce's "Eveline"? 

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's short story "Eveline" is a simple but powerful story with a fairly straightforward structure. Basically, the story can be broken up into two basic sections: a lengthy portion of exposition and background information, and then a much shorter section at the end composed of climactic action.

The first section takes up most of the story, and takes place not only in Eveline's home, but also within her own head. The main section of the story is made up of Eveline's thoughts and memories of her past, and it's here that we learn about Eveline's miserable predicament. Eveline begins by meditating on the constant presence of change, and then moves on to think about the state of her family. This section is perhaps the most important, as it discusses Eveline's dead brother and mother, her abusive father, and the miserably back breaking nature of her daily life. Finally, Eveline considers her relationship with Frank, memories of her mother, and, finally, her need to escape home. The fact that most of the story is contained within Eveline's thoughts illustrates just how isolated she really is.  

The second portion of the book is where most of the immediate action takes place. In it, Eveline experiences sudden, unexplained panic about her impending trip to Buenos Aires with Frank, and chooses to remain in Ireland. Much shorter than the first section, the second section of the short story packs in a surprisingly abundant amount of drama. As such, the story takes on a very interesting structure: after extensive build-up and exposition, Joyce hammers the reader with condensed and muscular action. Overall, this structure gives the reader a sense of confusion similar to Eveline's, as it hard to understand the motives that drive this desperate young woman to remain in such a miserable life.