(Short Stories for Students)

Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque
A saint whose promises are prevalent in many a Catholic home, Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in a small village in France in 1647. Although not an actual character in the tale, a print of her promises is on the wall and forces Eveline to think of her duties to home and family. Donald Torchiana has pointed out that various moments in this saint’s life strangely parallel Eveline’s.

Frank is the archetypal Knight in Shining Armor or Savior. His appearance, when Eveline first meets him, is one of healthy and robust nonchalance; he appears out of nowhere and provides respite from Eveline’s bleak life. As is a sailor, he has wild tales about remote regions where he has visited.

Sailing is a profession linked, often rightly so, with dubious morality. Sailors are often without home and apt to seduce women with false promises and later abandon them when it is time to move on to a new ship. While Eveline is trusting of this charmer, her father is suspicious and forbids her to see him. If Eveline accepts Frank’s “proposal,” she will be at his mercy in a country that is an ocean removed from her native Ireland.

The name “Frank” implies frankness. Was Joyce slyly ambiguous or outright ironic in giving the sailor this name? Is Frank really being open with Eveline? Is he a shady character? The reader is not even privy to his last name. Despite all this, Frank represents the only chance for happiness in Eveline’s life. She either has to trust him and accept the consequences, or resign herself to a fate similar to that of her mother.

Miss Gavan
Miss Gavan is Eveline’s immediate boss at the Stores. According to Eveline, she has a rather mean edge, enjoys bossing her around, and will enjoy gossiping about Eveline’s affair.

Ernest & Harry Hill
Ernest is Eveline’s now deceased older brother. He is mentioned only in passing. The reader never learns how he died.

Harry, no longer lives in the family home, but sends money to help out. His job involves church decoration.

Both Ernest and Harry are important in their absence; they can no longer shield Eveline from her father’s abuse. Although Harry sends money, Eveline has the primary responsibility of taking care of her father.

Eveline Hill
All the characters in the tale are seen through Eveline’s eyes; she is the heroine or protagonist. Since she remains virtually motionless for most of the tale; the better part of the narrative takes place in her mind as she stares around her home and decides whether to abandon her father and begin a new life with Frank, a sailor who has offered to take her to Buenos Aires and marry her. She is only nineteen years old, yet she is responsible for cooking for her father, who is often abusive and ungrateful, and taking care of two small children who have been left in her charge. She has developed heart palpitations out of fear of her father’s abuse; she is frail. She also has a job in a dry goods store where her superior, Miss Gavan, bosses her around.

Seen in the context of the...

(The entire section is 1300 words.)