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GSerpi - Eveline
[author: Gianluca Serpi - postdate: 2007-12-16]

What makes of a character a character?
In Joyce's short story Eveline, there are not many characters, but only one: Eveline herself. As a matter of fact, each character of the narration has not got a proper role in the development of the story.

Eveline, instead, seems to be a character, because she thinks and seems to take her own decision. But is this true? Is Eveline truly a character? No, she isn’t. Eveline is described by Joyce as “passive, like a helpless animal”. As I said before, she seems a character, but she isn’t. She takes decisions, but she is passive to everything she doesn't seem to be much of a real autonomous character. A character is a character only if she recognizes a point of view different from her/his own.


Eveline. Analysis
The story of Eveline reflects the possibility in many women of the early twentieth-century in Dublin to choose between a domestic life rooted in the past and the possibility of a new married life abroad. The character of Eveline lives this choice intensly. She sometimes feels happy to leave for Argentina, and sometime worried not to be faithful to the promise she made to her mother. She’s every time doubtful because she’s worried about what other people think of her. She sees Frank as a rescuer, saving her from her domestic situation. She has to decide between home, representing a known situation othe past and Argentina that represents a possible different future.

Eveline is prevented from making a bid from freedom, because she cannot conceive of living anywhere else than home.

The experience of her mother spurs Eveline to leave with Frank and embark on a new phase in her life. She also hears a street organ that played on the night before her mother’s death. This become a new reason to leave with Frank. Eveline fears that Frank will drown her in their new life, and this is what causes Eveline to freeze and not follow Frank onto the ship. Eveline becomes paralyzed as an “helpless animal”.


The story doesn’t continue with Eveline returning home, but with the transformation of the young girl into an automaton without feelings and emotions. In the end Joyce describes Eveline gripped onto the handrails symbol of stability and control. It represents the life she has always known and the comfort it provides.

Eveline is not a woman because she doesn’t change her status. As a matter of fact, to became a woman she has to become a wife, but this doesn’t happen. She cannot change her status because she is paralyzed, she is "passive, like an helpless animal". Joyce tried to communicate her purpose and her paralysis of thought, speech and action. So we must distinguish the simple colloquial voice of the character from the voice of a skilful narrator, however covert.

In the first part of the text he uses mainly the pronoun “she” / ”her”, to indicate her humanity that progressive change into a mechanic one in which Joyce uses the pronoun “it”.


1dingy, dismal, drab, drear, dreary, gloomy, sorry depressing in character or appearance;
2drab, sober, somber, sombre lacking brightness or color;
3drab, dreary lacking in liveliness or charm or surprise;
1invent, contrive, devise, excogitate, formulate, forge come up with (an idea, plan, explanation, theory, or priciple) after a mental effort;
1dingy, dismal, drab, drear, dreary, gloomy, sorry depressing in character or appearance;
2thickly covered with ingrained dirt or soot;
3(of color) discolored by impurities; not bright and clear; "dirty" is often used in combination;
1remembrance, recollection, anamnesis the ability to recall past occurrences
1.control: the act of making something
2.functioning state: the state of functioning or of being in effect;
3.something done: something that is carried out, especially something difficult or complex;