Interpretation of "Eveline"

Term Paper 2007 7 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature



I Introduction

II Eveline

III Bibliography

I Introduction

Due to the extreme restriction to only five pages I have to keep my interpretation of

"Eveline" as part of Dubliners extremely short. Yet by choosing one of the shortest stories from Dubliners I still hope to be able to say something meaningful in this short paper. In order to do so I will focus on the character of Eveline and examine in how far she can serve as an example of the paralysis that all characters in Dubliners, and especially women characters, suffer from. Eveline may thus, as many other characters in Dubliners, be considered an example of the social case histories Joyce has gathered in this book[1]. Further "Eveline" has many autobiographical qualities as Eveline's “most immediate living model was Joyce's sister Margaret[2]. Yet I will concentrate on what we can learn about women in Joyce's Dublin and the way in which they are struck by paralysis.

II Eveline

Already in the beginning of "Eveline" a sense of paralysis is evoked by the description of Eveline sitting at the window breathing in the odour of “dusty cretonne”[3]. It is not Eveline who is active in this scene but rather the evening which “invades the avenue”, which also hints at the passivity of her character[4]. This passivity is not surprising since Eveline herself as a character is in her profession as a housemaid in the typical “self-sacrifying nursing role” we find women throughout Dubliners in[5]. The job as a housemaid further reflects the “limited economic possibilities for women in Ireland”[6].

Also the avenue in which Eveline resides is not very lively and the familiarity of its inhabitants may as well be an example of the paralyzed state the street is in. This paralysis which does not only affect humans but also streets was only disturbed once when “new red houses”[7] were built by a man from Belfast, who, as someone from the protestant and English ruled part of Ireland, didn't care to build houses in the usual Irish style and thus transgressed an unwritten law and as a consequence disturbed the paralysis. The destruction of a playground, with which childhood memories of Eveline and others are linked, even make him appear as an alien aggressor. With a melancholic undertone Eveline has to admit that everything changes and that even she is about to bring change into her live full of routine and dust[8]. Eveline yet is afraid of being divided from the narrow and somehow small familiarity of things she “never dreamed of being divided” from[9]. The only other thing apart from the red brick houses that disturbs the peace is the picture of a probably deported priest that evokes a feeling of dark secrets behind the facade of the infallibility of the church.

Eveline, who plans to leave Ireland and marry Frank, is afraid of what people might say behind her back once she has left Ireland for good. She is sure that people will talk bad about her and that she as a housemaid will be replaced by an

“advertisement”[10]. Eveline is so caught up in this narrow world, that only running away and marrying the guy whom she wants to leave Ireland with promises a brighter future. Running away is the only chance to leave the world she is maltreated in because of not being married and not having a higher social status. Again paralysis is hinted at when we learn that her mother had the same job and was at least as maltreated[11]. Just like her mother's, Eveline's life holds commonplace sacrifices closing in final crazyness[12]. Eveline is not only mistreated by those she works for, but also by her own father who “gets at her” for no reason and thus inhibits her development. Practically Eveline has nobody except for her lover who she could turn to. Nobody seems to love her and care for her except for the one person in her life that is offering her a way out. The life she has been leading up to this point was dominated by her aggressive father whom she buys and prepares dinner for and who forbids her to meet her lover[13]. Yet, even though her life is not very promising and does not hold many joys, except for the saturday nights, she does “not find it a wholly undesirable life” in retrospective[14]. Considering her lifestyle not “wholly undesirable” reveals how the inhabitants of Dublin have arranged themselves with a life full of routine and how they are not even willing to give this up, even if they are promised a better future.


[1] Walzl, p. 32

[2] Wright, p. 22

[3] Joyce, p. 29

[4] Joyce, p. 29

[5] Scott, p. 16

[6] Walzl, p. 47

[7] Joyce, p. 29

[8] Joyce, p. 29

[9] Joyce, p. 30

[10] Joyce, p. 30

[11] Joyce, p. 30

[12] Joyce, p. 32

[13] Joyce, p. 31

[14] Joyce, p. 31


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University of Wuppertal
Interpretation Eveline Hauptseminar James Joyce



Title: Interpretation of "Eveline"