James Joyce captures the social realities of early nineteenth century Ireland in the set of short stories that comprise Dubliners. Many of the stories have parallels as Joyce overlaps themes in his effort to define the conditions in Ireland. Joyce develops the themes of paralysis and the desire to escape via the protagonists’ experiences in Eveline and Little Cloud. Confronted with the opportunity to escape Dublin, Eveline is unable to board the ferry because she is paralyzed by memories of her past and home.
Little Chandler is overwhelmed with a feeling of paralysis as he reflects upon Gallaher’s good fortunes after escaping Ireland.
“Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home.” In Eveline, Joyce attends to the Irish lower class as he depicts a young girl’s attempt to escape Dublin. The narrator describes the circumstances of the story through Eveline’s thoughts. Eveline ponders the benefits of leaving her home and the life she has in Dublin.
She feels that her duties at home and at work are a little overbearing. Eveline is unhappy with the way Miss Gavan behaves toward her at work, “especially whenever there were people listening.” In relation to the abuse she endures at work, Eveline believes, “in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that.” The idea of escaping fills her with hope because she desires to be appreciated. Eveline insists that she will not be treated the same way her mother was treated when she was alive.
According to Eveline, “she would be married – she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been.” Escaping Dublin and starting a new life for herself motivates Eveline to except Frank’s invitation to go to Buenos Ayres.
The narrator makes it known that Eveline is very conscious of the contrast between the way things were when she was young and her life now. When her mother was still alive, Eveline insists that “her father was not so bad then.” It was a long time ago when these memories of her father took place. She remembers when children from different families played together in the field, when her family was still together, and when her mother was alive. But now Eveline and her siblings have all grown up and her mother has died. She also reflects that Tizzie Dunn has died and many of her friends have moved away. All of Eveline’s thoughts represent the death and stagnant atmosphere of her home.
Eveline is also aware of the changes that have occurred in the relationship she has with her father. Despite the fact that she is over nineteen years old, the narrator reveals, “she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence.” Lately he has been threatening her and suggesting what he would do to her “for her dead mother’s sake.” Eveline is scared because her favorite brother Ernest is dead and her other brother Harry is busy down in the country. The narrator expresses Eveline’s fear and anxiety, “and now she had nobody to protect her.” Eveline does not understand that her memories of the past are out of date. The people Eveline associates with the past have all died or moved away. She feels vulnerable and dreams to escape the place of childhood.
Eveline perceives Frank as her only hope of escaping Dublin and making a new life for herself. Frank is symbolic of the excitement of the world outside of Ireland. He promises to take her away as his wife and live with her in Buenos Ayres in a home he has waiting for them. Eveline is intrigued by the idea of an exotic new land and she is ready “to explore another life with Frank.” When Eveline attended the Bohemian Girl with Frank, “she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the theatre with him.” Eveline was also impressed with Frank’s interest in music and ability to sing. The narrator explains Eveline’s feelings towards Frank, “first of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like him.” Frank told her “tales of distant countries” and stories of his journeys around the world. Eveline is convinced that if she wants a life outside of Dublin it must be with Frank. One night Eveline remembered the promise she made to her mother about taking care of the home for as long as she could. The narrator describes Eveline’s sudden realization about her future life in Dublin, “She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her…But she wanted to live…She had a right to happiness.” “Could she still draw back after all he had done for her?”
Despite Eveline’s desire to escape Dublin, she is overcome by paralysis as she considers leaving her home and family. Eveline’s doubts are revealed as she questions, “She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise?” Observing the objects that she has to care for in her home, Eveline is reserved when she considers leaving them. She is very attached to the things around her that represent the memories of her life at home. Eveline experiences feelings of sadness as she contemplates, “Perhaps she would never see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided.” Eveline is scared about the notion of adventuring out and trying to make a life on her own. She becomes unsure whether she can survive outside of Dublin and away from her family. As these emotions of uncertainty surround her, Eveline finds new security in her home despite her desire to escape. Eveline relates, “In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life about her.” Paralyzed by the concept of starting a new life with Frank, Eveline forgets about the reasons that she wanted to leave in the first place.
In contrast to the dislike she had expressed towards her work, Eveline testifies, “It was hard work – a hard life – but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.” Confronted by her fear of leaving her family and being on her own, Eveline reconsiders the conditions of her home. The idea of leaving her father upsets Eveline, she confirms, “Her father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her.” Eveline expresses her affection for her father despite the threat of him mistreating her and her memories of the way he acted towards her mother. When she ponders the good qualities in her father Eveline compresses time to make his past actions seem more recent. Remembering the time she was sick and he had read her a story and made her toast, Eveline maintains, “sometimes he could be very nice.”
She also has memories of going on a picnic when her mother was still alive and the way her father had made all the children laugh. The memory of her promise to her mother takes on new light, as she suddenly feels responsible for her father. Eveline confuses memories of her past with the realities of the conditions of her present life. The paralysis of leaving her family becomes too much for Eveline as she waits to board the ship with Frank. Eveline panics when she considers this major change in her life. When the departure bell rings Eveline feels “All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.” She is unable to board the boat and escape the place where she feels secure and at home.
Little Cloud portrays the paralysis of the protagonist’s life as it is contrasted with the life of a friend who escaped Ireland. Chandler is overwhelmed with the idea of meeting his friend after years of being apart. As Chandler dreams of seeing Gallaher he remembers, “few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could remain unspoiled by such success.” Chandler is envious of the life Gallaher made for himself writing for a paper in London. But Chandler is not jealous of his friend, he comments, “Gallaher’s heart was in the right place and he had deserved to win.” It has been eight years since Gallaher had last been in Dublin and Chandler wonders how life in Europe must have changed “the friend whom he had known under shabby and necessitous guise.” On his way to the bar Chandler reflects on his life in the same city, “he watched the scene and thought of life; and (as always happened when he thought of life) he became sad.” Spoiling the excitement of his earlier thoughts, Chandler’s melancholy nature reflects “how useless it was to struggle against fortune.” But Chandler is very impressed by Gallaher’s invitation to meet at Corless’s, the bar where you can eat oysters, drink liqueurs, and where the waiters speak French and German.
Though Gallaher used to drink freely and borrow money, Chandler insists, “now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could remember many signs of future greatness in his friend.” There was something about Gallaher that impressed Chandler in spite of himself. He admired his courage for leaving Dublin and also his ability to become “a brilliant figure for the London Press.” Chandler is encouraged by Gallaher’s success, the narrator explains, “for the first time in his life he felt himself superior to the people he passed.” The inspiration of meeting Gallaher moves chandler towards ideas of escaping Dublin and making a name for himself in London. Chandler believes that his missed opportunities are the fault of the stagnant environment of the city. He reveals, “There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin.” The books in Chandler’s house represent his hopes of becoming a writer and expressing his ideas. He wonders if he could write something original and if Gallaher would help him get it into the London paper. Walking to the bar Chandler relates, “he was not sure what idea he wished to express but the thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within him like an infant hope.”
Escaping his life and writing has been a dream of Chandler’s for a long time. The narrator describes Chandler’s emotions, “every step brought him nearer to London, farther from his own sober inartistic life.” Chandler looks inside himself and questions his ability to make it as a writer. He’s not too old to express himself and he believes “his temperament might be said to be just at the point of maturity.” The reader can see the irony in Chandler’s sense of himself and Dublin. The “different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse” are products of the city’s conditions and his experience there. Chandler debates the qualities of his soul, he tells, “melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy.”
Chandler believes that if he wrote a book of poems certain men would listen and that “he might appeal to a little circle of kindred minds.” He speculates that English critics might recognize him for the Celtic tone of his poems. He even invents responses that might appear in the notices he book could recieve. He suggests, “Mr. Chandler has the gift of easy and graceful verse….A wistful sadness pervades these poems… The Celtic note.” Chandler can’t take his focus off of the idea of becoming a success in London. He even considers changing his name to make it more Irish-looking. Incorporating his mother’s maiden name into his own, Chandler is more pleased with “Thomas Malone Chandler” or “T. Malone Chandler.” Chandler feels that escaping Dublin is the only way he can satisfy his dreams of success.
The narrator reveals the change in Gallaher soon after Chandler enters the bar. Unaware of the obvious national contrast in his friend’s appearance, Chandler describes Gallaher, “His eyes, which were of bluish slate-colour, relieved his unhealthy pallor and shone out plainly above the vivid orange tie he wore.” Gallaher’s blue eyes are representative of Ireland and the orange of his tie depicts a European influence. Chandler and Gallaher discuss the spoiled lives of their old friends. It becomes evident that Gallaher is the only person Chandler knows who has enjoyed success. Gallaher observes that Chandler has not changed in anyway since the last time he saw him. Suggesting that Chandler should “want to knock about a bit in the world,” Gallaher discovers that Chandler has never left the island. Chandler asks Gallaher to describe the beauty of Paris and the other exotic places he has visited. Gallaher has a different impression of Paris, he explains, “It’s not so beautiful, you know.
Of course, it is beautiful….But it’s the life of Paris; that’s the thing. Ah, there’s no city like Paris for gaiety, movement, excitement.” Chandler is astonished by the corruption and immoral behavior that Gallaher exposes him to. But Chandler is still impressed with Gallaher’s foresight to escape Dublin. He acknowledges, “The old personal charm was still there under this new gaudy manner. And, after all, Gallaher had lived, he had seen the world.” The difference between the two friends is developed further as Gallaher describes the life of Paris. In contrast to Chandler’s melancholy nature, Gallaher shows, “Everything in Paris is gay…They believe in enjoying life…If you want to enjoy yourself properly you must go to Paris.” Chandler feels that Gallaher must think Dublin is boring in comparison to the worlds he has seen. Chandler is even more inspired about leaving Dublin after he learns what kind of life exists off the island.
The drinks and strong cigar of his meeting with Gallaher upsets Chandler’s sensitive nature. Chandler is displeased with his friend accent and way of expressing himself. The feelings he experienced before talking with his friend disappeared as the narrator explains, “there was something vulgar in his friend which he had not observed before.” Chandler is disturbed by Gallaher’s adventurous and successful life. Chandler has a realization about the opportunities his friend has enjoyed as the narrator offers, “He felt acutely the contrast between his own life and his friend’s, and it seemed to hum unjust.”
It becomes evident to Chandler that he could be more triumphant than Gallaher, who he claims, “was his inferior in birth and education.” Chandler is confronted with a feeling of paralysis, “He was sure that he could do something better than his friend had ever done, or could ever do, something higher that mere tawdry journalism if he only got the chance.” But it all seems to late for Chandler when he dwells on Gallaher’s response to his inquiry about marriage. Chandler is overwhelmed with regret as Gallaher explains; “I’m going to have my fling first and see a bit of life and the world before I put my head in the sack – If I ever do.” The meeting with Gallaher changed Chandler’s feelings of inspiration into feelings of paralysis.
Returning home, Chandler feeling resentment towards all the things that are symbolic of his trapped existence in Dublin. After observing a picture of his wife, Chandler remembers a time in which Annie reprimanded him for trying to please her. The narrator describes his revelation, “He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly…But he found something mean in it.” Everything around him was irritated by his inability to escape the home and city that repressed him. He is again taunted by his meeting with Gallaher when he studies his wife’s eyes. Chandler insists, “they repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in them, no rapture.
He thought of what Gallaher had said about rich Jewesses…Why had he married the eyes in the photograph?” Looking upon the “pretty furniture” of his house, “A dull resentment against his life awoke within him.” In a state of panic Chandler questions whether it is too late for him to experience the same life as his friend. But once again Chandler feels paralyzed and unable to escape Dublin as he looks upon his family as obstacles keeping him from the things he wants. “He was a prisoner for life.” The experiences of the protagonists in Eveline and Little Cloud portray the themes of paralysis and the desire to escape. Joyce develops the social conditions in Ireland through the lives of Eveline and Little Chandler. Both characters desire to escape the environments of their surroundings. In the two stories, however, circumstances prevent their escape as they are paralyzed by the lives they have in Dublin.