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SPaviotti's Notes on Eveline
[author: Beltramini Marilena - postdate: 2008-01-05]

Text: J. Joyce,  Eveline
Task: Taking Notes

Cultural: Learning about charachterization
Intertextual: Characters and Narrative technique
Linguistic: Recognizing the value of semantics in making up meaning



Joyce declared that with the collection Dubliners he wanted to write "a chapter on the moral history of his country" and he added that he chose Dublin for the scene (because the city seemed to be the centre of paralysis).

Eveline is just one of the 15 stories of the collection. Eveline belongs to the section of adolescence which is only one of the 4 sections, each of which represents one stage in life ( childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life).

Eveline is not only the title of the story, it is also the protagonist itself. All the other characters play only a secondary part the role of which is meant to better put into focus Eveline's personality. As a matter of fact, it is typical of the conventions of the short story not to give too much room to what is not strictly necessary.

What matters in this story is the protagonist's psychology.

Eveline is a girl from the working class with a rather difficult family situation: her mother is dead and she has a violent father. She works as a shop assistant. In the short story there is no physical description of Eveline and from the narrator we learn only of her feelings and her memories of the past. This implies that the narrator wants the reader to concentrate on the psychological situation of  the character.

Eveline meets Frank who is a sailor going to leave for Buenos Aires. She is attracted by him but she doesn't seem to be in love whit him: he represents only the means of escape in her dull life. As a matter of fact she sees marriage as an escape from her drearily life.

She would like to leave home because of her fear of her father and the misery of her social condition.

In the life Frank seems to offer her what appeals to her: just a safer and decorous life.

In her memories, she remembers her dead mother (also one of her brothers died) and, at the end of the story, her filial love and duty prevent her from leaving home also because she has promised her mother she would look after her father.

Despite the violent aspect of her father's character, the passive attitude that has always kept her at home still triumphs over her desire to escape.

Eveline's contradictory feelings towards her father and his violence become of secondary importance as she approaches the time of departure and she is unable to make any choice revealing the atmosphere of stagnation and paralysis that the narrator has conveyed in the end of the short story.

In order to describe Eveline he uses the smile "like an helpless animal".

Like animals, she has no consciousness: she is not aware of the real reasons that prevent her from making any different choice, as it can be understood from the last line of the story when the narrator says that "her eyes gave him not sign of love or farewell or recognition".


The story is told from two different points of view:


  1. From the narrator's  - where the simple past in used
  2. From Eveline's  internal point of view - where the syntactic structure - used to, the past perfect or the construction would do (habits in the past) or was going to do (past intention) -  are used.

The present moment in the story is represent by the simple past.

The story can be divided into 2 clear sections:


- the first part is set in her house: she is looking trough the dusty window curtains.

- the second part takes place in the station at the North Wall.


In 1st  section Eveline is introduced right from the start as a non-acting character. All the verbs used by the narrator are perception verbs, not action verbs.

The technique of the narrator in the first section is the interior monologue: the reader is given access to the characters' inner feelings and thoughts and consequently he can follow also Eveline's associations and chain of thoughts.

The setting is very important because it contributes to the mood of narrative. In the short story we can distinguish:


-  an external setting which is frightening and unacceptable

- an internal setting: Eveline's poverty ridden home

-  a mental set : Eveline's objects of remembrance.


The element of the setting can serve multiple functions: consider for example the street-organ symbolic association with different levels of life and feelings.( from her dread situation trough moderate pleasure to the exotic)

Eveline's mind is inhabited by mother, father, brothers and sister, family priest and play mates, many of whom are named  and her sailor boyfriend.

But nobody of these can be called a character: they are just part of her mental apparatus.

Eveline is the only character in the story even if she " passive, like an helpless animal " doesn't seem to be much a real, autonomous character.

The narrator's real interest is generally the way in which a character  changes his perception of  a situation.