Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Eveline” is an example of naturalistic fiction in which the protagonist, described at one point as a “helpless animal,” responds to internal anxieties and environmental forces, particularly the influences of family life and the responsibilities to which she has been conditioned, and of a working life in Ireland, with its impoverishment, as Joyce imagined it. The way that “Eveline” and other stories of Dubliners reflect the details and concerns of everyday life closely observed and raised to significance through art suggests the influence of the Russian writer Anton Chekhov, but Ellmann notes in his biography James Joyce (1959) that Joyce claimed not to have read Chekhov at the time that he wrote those stories.

The purpose of Joyce’s realistic fiction, however, was not simply the close observation of banal detail. The details are carefully crafted and arranged so as to accumulate in such a way as to give meaning to the story’s climax, in keeping with the young writer’s theory of the “epiphany.” The progression is dramatic in Aristotelian terms, in that the central character is brought to a point of recognition and discovery, as suggested by Aristotle’s Poetics. Eveline’s self-discovery comes at the very end of the story. Her revelation is that she lacks the commitment and perhaps the courage to act on her dream of escape. When forced to choose between staying in Ireland and going to South America, she is also forced to confront her true feelings about Frank, who is “beyond the barrier” at that point, urging her to board the ship: “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.” Eveline is reduced to a frightened, “helpless animal,” as Joyce describes her at the end, who is incapable of exploring “another life with Frank.”

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Joyce, along with T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, is one of the founders of the English modernist movement. Largely...

(The entire section is 759 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

As a young man, Joyce admired the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, so much so that he taught himself Norwegian in...

(The entire section is 506 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1900: Ireland is a British colony. Irish-Catholics are under British rule. The Irish are forced to live in the more squalid sections...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

The life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque can be found in The Lives of the Saints. How does Eveline’s predicament mirror that of...

(The entire section is 374 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

“Eveline” is just one story in a collection of stories, Dubliners, by James Joyce. Many of the other stories remain among the most...

(The entire section is 401 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Further Reading
Burgess, Anthony. Re Joyce. W.W. Norton & Company, 1965. Burgess offers an accessible interpretation...

(The entire section is 252 words.)