What is the thesis sentence in James Joyce's short story "Eveline"? http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-thesis-sentence-eveline-essay-466150

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Reading this question, [http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-thesis-sentence-eveline-essay-466150], as "What is a thesis statement for an essay on James Joyce's story, 'Eveline,'" here is an alternate response:

James Joyce's "seven stages of man,"Dubliners, is set in the Irish capital that has been transformed into  the "second city" of the British Empire. It is in this atmosphere of colonial degradation, as critic Terence Brown observes, that Joyce reveals "the full parasitical horror of relationships explored in that grim study [Dubliners]." Therefore, one interpretation of the story "Eveline" can explore the characterization of Eveline as definitive of so many of the Dubliners. For, Eveline represents

  • the petit-bourgeois world of shopkeepers, tradesmen, clerks, bank tellers
  • the Catholic majority ruled by the ruling elite Protestant
  • the Catholic bound by religious obligations
  • the victimized woman whose husband or father is abusive
  • the woman burdened with being the only one responsible for the children of a family
  • the person paralyzed by repressed desires and degradation
  • the Irish who suffer psychological paralysis as a result of their repression

It is these conditions and others that cause what Joyce terms "paralysis," a paralysis of spirit that repressed and depressed the Dubliners, keeping them from achieving success and happiness. Here then is one thesis that can be built from the examples of the symbolism of the character Eveline shown above:

The character Eveline is symbolic of the Dubliners about whom James Joyce writes as she is representative of those repressed by Catholicism, she illustrates the victimized, and she embodies the psychological paralysis of the petit-bourgeois world of Dublin.

Another thesis could explain how the idea of paralysis plays such a major role in "Eveline":

Through the means of religious symbolism and allusion, domestic oppression, and social subjugation, the idea of paralysis drives the story of "Eveline."  

  • With this thesis, the student can explore such religious symbolism as the colored print of the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Eveline has made promises on behalf of her mother. Eveline's name which is a derivative of "Eve." With her biblical name, little Eve, or Eveline, must make a spiritual choice between the "good" devotion of a daughter and the potential evil of running off unmarried with a man. This strong influence of her religion upon Eveline is what causes her paralysis because the girl is torn between being a "good" daughter or one who sins by going off with a man.
  • Domestic violence causes paralysis, too, because Eveline is torn between escaping the abuse of her father, and her worry about her brother's state if she leaves. For, Eveline fears that the father may abuse the boy if she departs. Furthermore, because Eveline has been in a submissive position so long, and it is all she has known, she is afraid to leave it:

She had hard work to keep the house together and to see that the young children...went to school regularly and got their meals regularly. It was hard work--a hard life--but...she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

  • Eveline also feels a sense of relgious duty, too, having made promises to Blessed Margaret Mary Alaconque on behalf of her mother, "her promise to keep the home together as long as she could." Moreover, she worries about sinning by going off with a man:  "She prayed to God to direct her....A bell clanged upon her heart." indeed, "Eveline" is the story of the impossibility of the assertion of psychological freedom because of the political, social, and relgious patterning of Dublin and Ireland itself.
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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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James Joyce wrote of his native Ireland from an exceedingly bleak perspective.  The poverty and greyness of the British Isles and of Ireland lend his writing a realism and darkness that, combined with the influences of the Catholic Church on his emotional development, created a body of work that rarely rejoices in the beauty of the land from which he sprang.  “Eveline” is no exception.  Published in 1914 in his anthology Dubliners, “Eveline” introduces us to the forlorn figure of the title, a young woman – all we know of her age is that she is older than nineteen – tasked by her dying, and now deceased, mother to care for the family home.  This was a pledge that Eveline took seriously, and that dominated her life since her mother’s passing.  Her two brothers, Harry and Ernest, succeeded in escaping their physically abusive father’s climate of fear, Harry through his work traveling around decorating churches, and Ernest through death.  Eveline’s life, now, involves taking care of her aging father and two young children left in her charge for reasons Joyce did not deem worth sharing. 

A thesis sentence is the part of an essay or story that provides its main idea or central purpose.  In “Eveline,” that thesis sentence is often considered to be that which occurs midway through the short story and explains the protagonist, Eveline’s, dilemma.  He does this by repeating a description of Eveline’s posture provided in the story’s beginning:

“Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could.” [Emphasis added]

Eveline’s life has been centered on her commitment to her late mother to “keep the home together as long as she could.”  Towards that end, she had deprived herself of a normal, and presumably happier existence.  That situation began to change when she met Frank, a seaman passing through who becomes her lover and who promises to take her away to his home in Buenos Aires.  A new life beckoning in a faraway place is very tempting to the socially and emotionally repressed young woman, whose life has been severely constrained by the traditional role that women were expected to play.  This new life would lift her out of that existence.  As she imagines, “People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been.”

While many critics conclude that the thesis statement is the above quote regarding Eveline’s commitment to “keep the home together,” one could argue that the story’s outcome – Eveline chooses at the last minute to let Frank leave for Argentina without her – provides the central thesis of the story.  The following sentence, also provided midway through the story, could be the thesis statement:

“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 chooses the security and familiarity of the family home over the uncertainty of a new beginning abroad.  For purposes of concluding an assignment regarding the thesis statement in “Eveline,” however, the safe bet is the sentence regarding the promise to her mother.

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