The main themes in Eveline are Paralysis, Epiphany, Stream of Consciousness and Irish Social Conditions and Emigration.
Paralysis This sense of stagnation or paralysis is emphasized with the very words Joyce uses. The story “Eveline” presents an excellent example. The protagonist barely moves throughout the tale. The verbs which describe her are often verbs of inaction, for example “sat” in the first paragraph. Verbs are also deliberately presented in the passive form: “Her head was leaned.” This stress on inaction or paralysis culminates with the visual description of Eveline frozen, “passive, like a helpless animal.”
Epiphany The first epiphany, most certainly secular, occurs when Eveline is jolted to action at the remembrance of her mother repeating the nonsensical phrase, “Derevaun Seraun.” As Eveline prepares to depart, she experiences another epiphany. “A bell clanged upon her heart.” The vision is of drowning.
Stream of Consciousness Joyce’s “Eveline” presents an early, less-experimental use of a stream of consciousness–while not an actual stream of consciousness, the description of Eveline’s thoughts and emotions dominate the text; most of the “action” (there is virtually none) takes place within Eveline. The prose conveys her thoughts, emotions and memories rather than describing a temporal series of events.
Irish Social Conditions and Emigration Ireland has endured waves of emigration, particularly after the Potato Famine of 1848. Many left their native land to seek a better life elsewhere. The Irish were second-class citizens within their own nation; Ireland was a British colony and the Northern Protestants controlled the economy of the country. Catholic families often faced hardship. Alcoholism and abuse, as portrayed in “Eveline” were rampant. As a result, many of the Irish sought to escape.