How does the setting of "Eveline" influence her character?

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There is a certain aura of stagnation, death, defeat, and paralysis in the setting of "Eveline."

Eveline Hill sits listlessly at the window with the funereal smell of "dusty cretonne" as she stares down a lonely avenue where there was once a field in which children played. Now, however, the field is gone, because an intruder, a Protestant man from Belfast, purchased this lot and had houses built upon it.

At the port where the ship rests that can take her away with her lover, the adult world of desire disturbs the waters around the ship, but causes "distress and nausea"--what Joyce calls paralysis--in Eveline.

Much like the setting, Eveline suffers a paralysis of spirit under the looming influence of the dead and the stagnation of her life:

  • The man from Belfast who had houses built on the field has silenced the laughter of children and ruined the happy memories.
  • Eveline's mother is deceased, and the hanging print of the promises of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque is a reminder of Eveline's promise made to her mother to keep the family together.
  • Eveline perceives herself to be in danger of her father's violence, and feels helpless as there is no older brother any more who will protect her.
  • Her life is "hard" as she suffers through squabbles about money.
  • Eveline continues to sit at the window and inhales the "odour of dusty cretonne" as her dream of leaving with Frank fades because she is again reminded of her promise to her mother.
  • She is further reminded of her mother's words that the end of pleasure is pain--"Derevaun Seraun!"
  • When Eveline finally goes to the port, she sees the "black mass of the boat" that blows a "mournful whistle into the mist" and she halts, emotionally paralyzed.
  • "A bell clanged upon her heart": Her duty evoked by the Blessed Margaret Mary paralyzes Eveline and she cannot board the ship.
  • Eveline surrenders to the circumstances that she cannot control: "She set her white face to him [Frank], passive, like a helpless animal." 
  • Much as she has sat listlessly at the window, Eveline has an insufficiency of will, and she cannot board the ship.

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