Eveline Topics for Further Study
by James Joyce

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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 Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque? Joyce is always scrupulously accurate with his references. Why might he be linking the heroine with this famous saint?

Sailors appear in many works of Joyce, for example as uncouth and diseased outsiders in Ulysses. In “A Painful Case,” another story in Dubliner’s, Mrs. Sinico is married to a merchant seaman who is never home. Frank, the seaman in “Eveline” is presented as the only positive element in Eveline’s life. Yet, there is an underside to a sailor, making his proposal both dangerous and dubious. Research what life was like for a sailor around the turn of the century.

Emigration has been a constant occurrence during the last two hundred years of Irish history. Ever since the Potato Famine in the late 1840s, the Irish have been leaving their homeland in search of a better life elsewhere. Have they found it? Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes presents a scenario where a family actually returned to Ireland. What might Eveline’s life have been like had she departed with Frank?

Joyce had a very difficult time getting his publisher and printer to actually publish Dubliners. Some of the naturalistic scenes do not portray the Irish in a positive light. Additionally, some of the stories contain themes of ambiguous morality and sexuality. Why might a publisher of that era have been worried about publishing a collection with “An Encounter” and “Two Gallants”? Does “Eveline” contain any themes that might have been considered obscene at the time?

The native language of the Irish is Gaelic, not English, which is the language of a colonizing nation. In “Eveline,” the recollection of the mother reciting “Derevaun Seraun” jolts the protagonist to action. For years critics could not attribute the slang Gaelic phrase with any accuracy; they thought it was an incoherent utterance. Professor John V. Kelleher has classified the phrase as West of Ireland dialect meaning: “Worms are the only end.” How does this fit into the story? Is it important that the reader knows it? What is the significance of Mrs. Hill uttering in a non-English dialect?