Short but very expressive, Eveline is the story about those few moments in life when one ponders upon the past and the possible future and has to take a decision that can change one’s life. Here is the case of Eveline (the heroine of James Joyce’s short story) that comes to a crossroad and has to decide which way she should go. The text begins with the image of Eveline sitting at the window and watching outside. Space is very important and suggestive, because Eveline is a product of her environment.
Thus, the “window” becomes a symbol for isolation from the world outside. She feels entrapped, enclosed, and even suffocated as the “odour of dusty cretonne” suggests and her eyes that look outside express the need to escape, to breathe. The author also chooses very well the time, since it is “evening” – a moment that suggests the end of something – but also a moment when one can become very confused.
The idea of entrapment and suffocation is emphasized by the short sentence: “She was tired” (2). The following fragment is a description of the world outside, beyond the window, as it is seen in the present and as she remembers events from the past. It is now, before leaving, that all the memories come back to her and she realizes that her life back then was not so bad after all: “Still they seemed to have been rather happy then” (10). She remembers many friends that she used to play with and their names are mentioned by the author in order to make the story more realistic.
Therefore, the author uses the technique of flashback to make the difference between the two worlds, or better said the two mo-ments in Eveline’s life. The description of the life in the city is made with the help of visual and even auditory images: “his footsteps clacking” (3), “crunching on the cinder path” (4), and “call out when he saw her father coming” (9). Temporal adverbs and expressions such as “one time” (4), “then” (5), “used to” (4), “that was a long time ago” (10) and “now” (12) are used to emphasize the passage from the present to the past. Eveline realizes that time passes very fast and things change and now it is her time to change something in her life. She tries to find reasons for her decision to leave home and she seems to look for them in the room, but all she can see are things that remind her of her childhood and suggest us that she was raised in a religious atmosphere. Her father attended a Catholic school but he did not have enough will to finish it, instead he was proud to show everybody the picture of his priest friend. Another religious element is the photograph of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque who was paralyzed for a few years in her childhood and her paralysis can sustain the idea of the heroine’s entrapment and suffocation. Even though she took the decision of leaving home, Eveline was still confused and asked herself if that was the right thing to do.
She had a home here and friends and even if she had to work hard, both at home and at work, this was her life. She did not even care too much of what people at work would say about her departure. So why should she leave? Maybe because she wanted a new life as a respected wife; a better life than the one her mother had, far away from her father and her duties she had in the house. Nevertheless, if she had a hard life why did she still have doubts?- “but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life” (43). And if her harsh past did not give her enough motifs to leave and start a new life maybe Frank would make a good reason. Her thoughts go back in the past and she remembers how they met. Their relationship was a little confusing for Eveline because she was not used to the way Frank lived and the way he treated her. Even more, the way he used to call her, “Poppens” (51) (that may come from poppy), suggests the fact that she felt confused and maybe used to blush when she was with him. It is interesting that the author reveals us plenty of details about his life and how he would treat her but there is no mentioning about how Eveline feels about him, if she loved him or not. Therefore, she might just see in Frank a way of escaping her present life and starting a new one in a different place. However, the fact that her father did not like Frank and her memories about the good times when her mother lived make her wonder again.
The sound of the organ player takes her back on the last day of her mother, when she heard her constantly repeating “Derevaun Seraun!” (74). The image of her mother saying these words and remembering the life she had, terrified Eveline. She did not want to live the life of her mother, a life of “commonplace sacrifices and closing in final craziness” (71). She was afraid of having the same destiny and that is why she wanted to leave. She felt trapped in the hands of fate and wanted to escape (“She wanted to escape”- 75) and make her own life, she wanted to feel alive (“she wanted to live”- 76) and she believed that Frank was the answer for that (“He would save her”- 77). Therefore, she decides to go away with him. Once arrived at the harbour, Eveline becomes frightened again. She knows Frank is talking to her but she cannot understand his words except one: “passage”. This is a clear symbol for the passage that Eveline has to take in order to begin a new and different life. Once again, she becomes confused and scared.She cannot even talk and she prays to God to guide her; she realizes that Frank is no longer her hope, but God is the only one who can show her the right way. The whistle that the boat blows announces the moment when Eveline has to take a decision; it is her last chance to think it over. Confused she asks herself what to do and prays for the right answer (“she kept moving her lips in silent fervent prayer”- 84). When the time comes for them to go on board, she receives her answer that comes as a revelation (“A bell clanged upon her heart”-86). If Frank had been her salvation so far, he was now the one who would entrap her and keep her from living (“he would drown her”-88).
Therefore she could not leave with him. She was still scared for she grabbed the iron railing and did not move even though Frank kept calling her. She remained still like a “helpless animal” (94). This image could be connected to the Bible and it can suggest the idea of sacrifice. Even if Eveline is a mature woman and is used to a hard life she is regarded as helpless resembling an animal when it is taken to be sacrificed. However, she is the one who sacrifice herself and her life. The reasons she does that are left to us to imagine since the author does not tell us. Her promise to her mother that she would take care of the family, the religious way in which she was brought up and probably even the fear of the un20th and 21st Century Literature 9 known made her choose to stay. Besides, probably she did not even love Frank as much as to let him take her away, but he was just an excuse for her to leave. This idea is expressed by the last sentence as well: “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition” (94). Analysing the end, one would say that she will share her mother’s destiny and end up like she did, but Eveline is quite different and can have a better life than the one her mother had. Even if she seemed confused, the experience she has just been through will help her become stronger and make her own destiny. The story of Eveline can be the story of each of us at a certain moment in life. Everyone has to make a decision and to choose between one way and the other at least one time in life. There are moments when you have to think very well about what you are going to do, but other times you just have to take a risk. The right way is the one that makes you happy and pleased with yourself.