In "Eveline," how does Eveline's mother's death relate to her decision not to go with Frank; why did Eveline refuse to go?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The night before the ship's departure for Buenos Ayres, Eveline experiences and recalls several events that help her determine to go with Frank to Buenos Ayres. She hears a sreet organ grinding and is reminded of her promise to her mother to keep the family together as long as she could. She recalls the last night of her mother's life, in which it closed in "final craziness." Finally, she recalls her mother's voice "saying constantly with foolish insistence: "Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!"" This is seemingly a nonsense "foolish" statement, whether of a Gaelic dialect or only gibberish.

The recollections Eveline has that are associated with her mother's death sway her one way and then the other: she doesn't want to continue in a life of abuse; she owes a duty to fulfill her mother's last wish; she doesn't want a life that ends unhappily in "final craziness"; she wants to fulfill her promise to "keep the family together." Finally, it is the recollection of her mother's "foolish" repetition of a seemingly nonsensical phrase that triggers Eveline's independent resolve and determines her on seeking a life of freedom with Frank.

At the dock, when she and Frank are awaiting time to embark, her fears and confusions--the same ones that vacillated through her mind and heart the night before--rage around her as fiercely as the sea to which Joyce symbolically links them. Her duty to her mother and father and religion and moral purity are all subsumed in her prayer to be shown her duty, a desire undoubtedly heightened by her death-bed promise to her mother.

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Eveline must decide whether to abandon her father and begin a new life with Frank. Eveline's decision is most crucial. If she flees, she is spiting tradition, her duties to her family and a promise she made to her mother that she would keep the family together.

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