Discussion Topic

Eveline's inner conflict about whether to leave with Frank

Summary:

Eveline's inner conflict centers on her desire for a new life with Frank versus her sense of duty to her family. She feels a sense of obligation to her father and the promise she made to her dying mother, which clashes with her longing for escape and personal happiness.

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Why does Eveline want to leave her hometown and go with Frank in "Eveline"?

A new life in Buenos Aires with Frank is an attractive option for Eveline. A fresh start in a faraway country is just what she needs. Her home life is marred by boredom, drudgery, and petty arguments over money with her alcoholic father. What's happening in Eveline's life is simply a microcosm of a wider political and cultural malaise in Irish society. A constant refrain from Joyce in his short stories is the cultural and intellectual stasis of life in Ireland, and Eveline's drab, hopeless existence reflects this.

Eveline clearly has deep feelings for Frank. He would be the ideal man for her, in Argentina or anywhere else. Upping sticks and moving half way round the world is a big step, but it would be so much easier for Eveline with Frank by her side. She's taking a risk, but not a very big one. She knows that Frank will be a loyal, loving companion, someone who will take care of her and give her all the emotional comfort and support so patently lacking at home. Simply put, moving to Buenos Aires with Frank will give Eveline her first real shot at happiness. That in itself should be a sufficiently compelling reason to make her step aboard that ship. The fact that it isn't enough indicates just how much she has been immobilized by her narrow, restrictive life experiences.

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Why does Eveline want to leave her hometown and go with Frank in "Eveline"?

In Joyce's short story, "Eveline," Eveline is trapped and figuratively paralyzed in a bad home life.  She is the responsible person in her home and takes care of her little brother and her abusive father. 

Her going to Buenes Aires is an opportunity to escape.  Like other characters in Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, from which this story comes, she is a Dubliner trapped in Ireland and unable to escape.  Moving away to South America would present her with what would most likely be a better life. 

But this escape comes at too high a price, apparently.  Dubliners features characters that don't get out of Ireland, even when they have a chance.  In Eveline's case, she is in a no win situation.  To leave would probably present her with a better existence, but would leave her family uncared for.  She freezes when it is time to go--she is literally, and figuratively, frozen.  She has no good choice.  She desperately wants to escape, but cannot bring herself to do so. 

It is important to note that this is sophisticated fiction.  Eveline does not cheerily stay and idealistically look forward to being the rock of her family or whatever.  This story presents no moral lesson.  The fiction realistically depicts a woman trapped in a modern situation with no way out.  It is dark and honest. 

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Why does Eveline want to leave her hometown and go with Frank in "Eveline"?

In "Eveline" by James Joyce, Eveline had many reasons for wanting to leave home and go with Frank to Buenos Ayres. One reason was that she liked him. He was kind and gentle, yet a manly sailor. At first she was just pleased at his attention but then, as she came to know him, she grew to like him.

Another reason was that in her present-day life, she fought weekly with her father about whether his and her earnings would be used to pay living expenses and buy food or whether he would spend it all on alcohol. She did all the house work and cooking for her father and took care of the younger children her mother had left behind at her death. She worked at the Stores where she was mistreated, undervalued and most unhappy.

A third reason for wanting to go with Frank was that her past experiences were sad and painful. Her father had been drunken and abusive to her mother and cruel to herself and her brothers and sisters. When they were children they had "seemed to be" happy then, but there was always the shadow of their father's violence and it was a shadowed that worsened over the years and threatened her more darkly in the present.

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Why did Eveline refuse to leave with Frank?

The author does not specifically state why Eveline decides not to go with Frank. The story begins with Eveline reminiscing about earlier days in her home. She recalls those earlier days with fondness and remembers her promise to her mother that she would "keep the home together as long as she could." However, she realizes that "everything changes." Eveline considers her father's potential to become violent and how she must work hard to help with the home.

When Eveline has the opportunity to leave with Frank, she decides to stay with what is familiar to her. She compares the turmoil she is experiencing to her heart being surrounded by tumbling seas. She arrives at the decision that "he would drown her." Eveline chooses the safety of what is known to her over the fear of the unknown. Although her life will not be easy, it will be predictable and familiar.

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Why did Eveline refuse to leave with Frank?

One of the reasons that Eveline does not leave with Frank is that she feels in some ways as if she is emotionally paralyzed. She chooses to stay because it is the life she knows. She is fearful of having to begin a new life.

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What causes Eveline's decision not to elope with Frank in "Eveline"?

Eveline's history is one of repression; moreover, what Joyce defines as paralysis propels the story of "Eveline." And, it is because of this paralysis that Eveline cannot bring herself to elope with Frank.

For the most part, the demands of her Irish-Catholic background determine Eveline's decisions. There is Eveline's obedience to her mother's last wishes that she hold the family together, and to her father, who

...had found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say to him [Frank]."

There is in her house the hanging promise of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque for security and blessings in life for those who keep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Before Eveline goes to the station, she prays for guidance from God, and when the boat's whistle blows in the mist, Eveline says a silent and fervent prayer; as she does so, "[A] bell clanged upon her heart." This bell is the conditioning of her religious faith and her domestic servility, and she surrenders to it.

No! No! No! It was impossible,...Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish!

Eveline is paralyzed by her uncertainty and her sense of duty; she forsakes escape and love for the past, trapped psychologically by her religious beliefs and promises. 

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