What is the theme in "Eveline"?

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anzio45 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I take the theme of 'Eveline' to be one of Joyce's key preoccupations, the idea of paralysis, our inability to break out of situations that have become home for us, even when those situations are unpleasant or worse. Most of the story is taken up with Eveline's reflections and her attempts to balance her decision: 'She tried to weigh each side of the question.' But it is fairly clear from the sheer volume of people and things that she reflects on that she is desperately attached to them, however perverse it may seem. Her father is a deeply unattractive figure who controls her life and yet she finds a few pathetic good memories of him, telling her a story and making toast for her when she was ill and putting on her mother's bonnet for a laugh. The fact that she notes his ageing is also a clue that she will not follow through on her emigration from Ireland.

So I take the story to stand for any such situation in which the familiar, however oppressive or enslaving it might be, is always preferable to the adventurous or romantic or exotic. It is a strange but true fact of life that women often remain with abusive partners, for example, or that bullied people court the approval and company of those who bully them. Eveline can see the emptiness of her life and knows she must escape - the word is emphasized twice with exclamation marks - but her paralysis at the end of the story confirms what we the readers have picked up already from the way her mind is working: she will never have the courage to do it.

Some interpretations go much further and see Eveline as a symbol of Ireland under British rule and basically more comfortable that way than trying to become an independent nation, but then Joyce has been interpreted in so many different ways that you'll have to make up your own mind about that! Good luck in your reading.

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Kristy Wooten eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several themes present.  Enotes refers to four in particular: paralysis, epiphany, stream of consciousness, and the state of Irish social and economic environments ("Eveline"). Paralysis means many things in the story. First, Eve barely moves in the story; also, she is destined to stay and do what she has been doing.  She isn't destined to be with Frank; therefore, she is paralyzed by her obligations to her dying father.  She cannot escape this paralysis or break free from it, though she longs to. Eve also has an epiphany when she hears her mothers voice utter “Derevaun Seraun" (Enotes).  The second epiphany is when Eve hears the...

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brandih eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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