SBufo. Eveline. Analysis of short story.
[author: Sara Bufo - postdate: 2007-12-16]




Eveline is introduced by Joyce using the pronoun "She". Maybe, the writer didn't use her name  to render Eveline a universal type of female figure, or maybe he didn't want to repeat the name already included in the title. The reader will discover the reason later.


Eveline is first described as sitting at the window. Joyce then pans out with a cinematographic technique to show what is happening outside the house. After moving in space, the writer moves in time, recalling Eveline's past childhood. In doing so, Joyce describes the main (and only) character of the story not as an individual figure, but in relation to others: first of all, the children in the avenue, then, her family. Her identity is built on her past experiences. The past is strictly connected to the present: in a sense, it represents the happiest part of her life, while she feels miserable in her present situation.


"Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home". The sentence implies that, as in the normal progression of life, Eveline has reached a turning point. Therefore, she gives the impression of being a dynamic character: her life is about to change.


From the scene out of the window, the reader is newly directed to the inside of the house, symbolizing the constraints on Eveline. The objects link the past and the present. Furthermore, although Eveline is familiar with them, she has never been curious enough to uncover their origin of history ("during all those years she had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hung on the wall"). As a consequence, Joyce shows in an indirect way one of the most striking aspects of Eveline's personality: her paralysis (Dublin itself is considered the symbol of paralysis for Joyce). This is also evident in the following words: "Perhaps she would never see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided".


In addition, she is also portrayed as a passive character: she hadn't taken the initiative in deciding to go away, she had just  consented to go away without being totally convinced. She is plagued by doubts and weighs up the pros and cons. Moreover, she is influenced by other people's opinions: even if she will no longer be there, she cares about what other people think of her, especially her supervisor at the store.


At the present, Eveline's life is oppressive, both at home and at work. She is described as a victim of circumstances, and doesn't seem to have any choice. It is significant that Joyce finally introduces her name when she envisages her future life as a wife in a distant country, where she will finally be respected. Therefore, it seems as if Eveline will start to live in her own right, whereas she has been living like a ghost up to now.


Even though Eveline's life is very hard and she dreams of a happy future, she is aware of her responsibilities: the two young children who had been left to her charge, a father who is an alcoholic and the promise she made to her mother on her death bed. These responsibilities are weights which she longs to remove by escaping. She feels that she will never be happy, appreciated or loved in her present life. Her only opportunity to be saved is Frank.


She is aware of the fact that this is a turning point of her life: she must choose between this existence and an active life, but making such a decision is too much for her. She feels in a "maze of distress" and prays God to direct her and show her which is her duty.


When it is the moment to decide, she is afraid of change and believes it to be painful and impossible. She becomes numb and feelingless. Joyce describes her as a "helpless animal", which makes the reader see her as a victim of her situation.