What's the setting of the story in "Eveline" by James Joyce? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Most simply put, the setting of any story is the time and place in which a story unfolds. However, in a larger sense, setting also refers to a story's overall greater environment and establishes the mood of a story. Setting can include "social conditions, historical time, geographical locations weather, immediate surroundings, and timing" (Literary Devices, "Setting").

In James Joyce's short story "Eveline," the story opens with the title character and protagonist, Eveline, sitting at a window in her father's home, at dusk, watching dusk turn to evening. Therefore, the window, the home, and the approaching evening all count as aspects of the setting.  

As we continue to read, due to the narrator's reference to Belfast and the list of Irish names, we learn that the story is more specifically set in a small, unnamed village in Ireland. The narrator's description of change in the village is also part of the setting; more specifically, the narrator reflects on how Eveline used to play in an open field with the other village children, but the field has since been covered with new houses by a "man from Belfast."

Further aspects of the setting include several factors that help identify the culture and society in which she lives: (1) She works as a shop girl for very low wages; (2) her father is a drunkard; (3) her mother is deceased, and she must work very hard to take care of both the household and her youngest siblings; (4) she is afraid to run off with a man to escape her living conditions because she is afraid of ruining her reputation; and (5) most everyone she grew up with has emigrated out of the country.

Due to these cultural references, we know the story is also most likely set around the time that Joyce wrote the story, which was 1914, the same year that World War I started. The hardships the character endures reflects Joyce's own experiences living in Ireland.

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The setting of Eveline by James Joyce is 1895 Dublin, Ireland (the current capital city). At the time, Ireland was still under the control of the English monarchy and would be until the year 1922. It is important to note that the Roman Catholic Church and English monarchy were both significant social, political, and economic forces in Ireland. Understanding this part of the setting is integral to understanding the themes of paralysis and corruption woven into Eveline.

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