“Eveline” is a short story by James Joyce. Eveline is 19 and standing at a crossroads in her life. She has a single choice to make as she stands and reflects at the ship dock. The decision she must make is whether she should go with Frank, her secret soon-to-be husband or stay with her father in the only place she has ever known. “Frank was very kind, manly, open, hearted,” (Joyce 45) and offers Eveline a “new home, in a distant unknown country” (Joyce 44) in Buenos Ayres.
Her father is aging, grumpy, and often threatens violence is she does not do what he says. Eveline ponders what her duty really is.
There are several good reasons for Eveline to leave with Frank and get married. “Her brothers and sisters were all grown up”, (Joyce 42) and her mother was dead. Her childhood friends, Tizzie Dun was dead and the Waters had moved back to England. She is forced to spend her days working in a store making money she must turn over to her father.
She spends her evenings taking care of the house, her father, and two young children.
This is not exactly the life she has read about in romance novels or daydreamed about in grade school. It is hard work and with the knowledge that “Everything changes” (Joyce 43) she wants to “go away like the others, to leave her home.” (Joyce 43). She knows if she stays, she will stagnate. She will still be breathing but she will be just as dead as her mother if she chooses to stay. Frank offers her a life of new adventures and love. When she is married she will have respect and Frank will not be violent with Eveline as her father was with her mother.
As Eveline “tried to weigh each side of the question” (Joyce 43) she begins to develop a list of reasons why she must stay. This is the only home Eveline as has ever known. It is full of “familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years” (Joyce 43). And wonders if she will ever see these things again.
Here, with her father, she has food and shelter, and the comfort of the known. She also fears that the people she knows in town will consider her “fool” (Joyce 43) when they realize she had run away with a fellow” (Joyce 43). Her father is old and forgetful, and she worries if he can take care of himself. The overwhelming reason why she feels it is her duty to stay because of “her promise to keep the home together as long as she could.” (Joyce 47) to her mother just before she died.
Eveline’s relationship with Frank is based solely on hope. Frank is a sailor who is kind but tells her “tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy at a pound a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada”(Joyce 46). And her father warns “”I know these sailor chaps”” (Joyce 46).
Is Frank being truthful or is he a typical sailor with a girl in every port. She hopes that he is telling her the truth because she has no other evidence that he is. Frank symbolizes escape. When she reflects on her promise to her dying mother and her subsequent death she thinks to herself “Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her.”(Joyce 47).
The question remains for Eveline, will she go with Frank or stay at home. Of course in the end she decides to stay. She chooses the known over unknown excitement. The comfort of stability and a familiar environment far outweighs her desire for a new life, in a new home with new people. In the end she chooses “hard work — a hard life — but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.” (Joyce 45). “Eveline” is a story about choice and learning to live with the consequences of that choice.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: The Modern library, 1954. Questia. 6 Dec. 2005 <http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=58215117>.
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“Eveline” by James Joyce. (2017, Apr 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/eveline-by-james-joyce-essay