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Monday, December 31, 2012

Essay on James Joyce's Eveline

Essay on James Joyce's Eveline

The story of young Eveline Hill is tragic, not in the sense that her life has been a myriad of unfortunate events one after another; rather it is tragic due to her lack of determination and inability to arrive at a solid conclusion as to what to do with her life. 

Eveline’s indecisiveness seems to stem from her inability to let go of the past. She wallows in past events (both the good and the bad) and she failed to realize how this habit of holding on to the past has ultimately affected her future. She fears the prospect of being trapped in domesticity for the rest of her life and wants more than ever to escape the life of “commonplace sacrifice” much like her mother’s. 

At one point in the story Eveline feels relief that she’s leaving her old life behind, thinking that she has lived quite a hard life and yet when confronted with the thought of leaving with her lover for good, she suddenly thinks that her life isn’t that hard at all. Eveline is torn between seeking a new (and probably prosperous) life in a new land and her promise to her mother to keep the family intact. 
“The White of two letters in her lap grew indistinct. One was to Harry; the other was to her father,” (Joyce, par. 7). Holding the two letters, Eveline reveals that her decisions are heavily influenced by her family relationship, even though her father exhibits acts of cruelties sometimes and her brother is mostly absent. She tricks herself clinging onto the warmer memories of the past and traps herself in between her duties at home and the prospect of new experiences in a new land with her lover.

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Later on the memory of her mother’s seemingly unfulfilled life and death (due to an illness) terrifies her greatly and she wishes for escape. She believes that her lover, the sailor, would rescue her from her bleak existence. Across the sea Eveline sees her freedom, that in Argentina “she would be married -- she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been” (Joyce, par. 5). In a foreign land she will be able to finally free herself from her father’s violence; she imagines what other people will do for her and what they will want her to do for them. However her inability to wander away from home suggests that wandering across the sea is too great of a task for her. 

With thoughts of her right to being happy she goes to the docks with her lover, and the confusion of the place adds up to the terror that she feels, thus Eveline once again falls into the pit of indecisiveness. She relies on the guidance of repetitive prayers, showing her discomfort with new routines and heavy reliance on what is familiar. 

Eveline stands on the shore, paralyzed due to fear and guilt about abandoning her father and her siblings. Her indecisiveness gets the better of her, as in an impulsive moment chose to stay in Dublin rather than board the ship to Argentina. Although her homeland can be described like her father’s house, “the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from” (Joyce, par. 3), seemingly old and perpetually dusty it was at least familiar and provided a sense of comfort. Although the story does not suggest that the title character simply returns home and continued to live her day to day life, it does seem to suggest to its readers that Eveline continues to fall into the trap of indecisiveness in Dublin. 

Cited Works
Joyce, James. "Eveline by James Joyce." The Literature Network: Online classic literature, poems, and quotes. Essays & Summaries. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <>.

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