Student Question

What is the main point of "Eveline" by James Joyce, and how does he convey it?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As usual, it's difficult to pinpoint a single "point" in any work of literature. However, if one were to talk about the point of James Joyce's "Eveline," then it would be most accurate to say that the major point of the story is to illustrate the oppression of Irish women.

In Joyce's short story, Eveline is a young, working-class woman burdened with hardship. Her mother and one brother have passed away, and her father has fallen into alcoholism. Eveline works at a shop, but her money is largely devoted to supporting her family (or at least is given over to her father). Additionally, she has had to take care of her younger siblings now that her mother is gone. Though Eveline dearly wants to escape the tedium of her existence, the only way in which she can do so is to escape with a man, Frank, who wants to marry her and take her to Buenos Aires.

In analyzing Eveline's story, a few things become apparent. First, Joyce makes it clear that women are unfairly burdened with care of the family and household work. Furthermore, a woman must rely on a man to sustain herself. Indeed, Eveline's only hope of escaping her miserable life is to rely upon Frank, which effectively robs her of any agency. As such, if there's any point to "Eveline," it's that Irish women are unfairly oppressed and disadvantaged, and have little hope of advancing themselves or gaining independence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain how "Eveline" by James Joyce makes its point.

James Joyce’s Eveline tells the story of a young girl, Eveline, who has become a prisoner of her own life. Now that her mother has died, Eveline is in charge of caring for the family, as her mother did before her.

One of the main themes of Eveline is that of loyalty and expectations. At what point does a person’s loyalty mean they must adhere to the expectations of their loved ones, even when it’s not best for them? This is something that Eveline wrestles with from the beginning of the story. As she sits at the window, watching people pass by their window, she is thinking about never seeing any of this again. She has met a man, Frank, who wants to marry her and take her to Buenos Aires. This is her way out of the duties she is expected to perform, but has no desire to. Her father is a mean alcoholic, one brother is dead, and the other is in Ireland but is not expected to help. She works all day and uses her money to support the family. She dreads this existence, she feels hopeless, and yet she is afraid to leave.

Eveline decides to go—she must!—but she isn’t comfortable with her decision. As she and Frank arrive at the ship which will take them Buenos Aires, she is filled with fear and regret. As Frank boards the ship, Eveline watches him go with no expression on her face, seemingly impassive, though most likely just resigned to her fate. It is in this final scene where Joyce makes his greater point; sometimes we commit ourselves to an undesirable existence just to fulfill the future we think we’re supposed to. Her blank face belies that she has, essentially, given up her own life.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain how "Eveline" by James Joyce makes its point. Also, what is the point of the story?

I'm not sure if this is simply the assignment you have been given, but I would resist ever thinking of stories as having a single point or theme. Joyce, like most great authors, creates believable characters and puts them into realistic situations, then watches them grapple with essential human questions. In this sense the point of the story is Eveline herself.

Joyce famously believed that through the specific we gain insight into the universal. This is very much the case with this character. Eveline struggles with troubles from her past, including memories of her abusive father and the loss of loved ones. She considers the possibility of leaving Ireland with her lover, but the power of her emotions overwhelms her. She is seemingly paralyzed. By observing this character we gain insight into larger human questions surrounding grief and human choices. Do we learn helplessness in the face of immense struggle? Is there something about hardship that draws us even closer to a place or situation? Only by diving into one very specific person can Joyce tackle these larger questions.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on