Link to text of Eveline online: link
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Reading Eveline last of all the works of Joyce that I’ve read really helped to put it in new perspective compared with the other Dubliners stories. When I read the short story, I notice a contrast between what is keeping Eveline staying in Dublin, and what is pushing her away to go to Buenos Ayres. I’d like to think that Joyce is writing about the tensions between him staying in Ireland and leaving for the rest of Europe. When I look at the motivations for each, I notice some elements that are similar to Joyce’s own life, and other elements that are very different.
One of the most interesting elements that Joyce uses in the story is the progression of time that he uses in the telling of the story. The story starts off with Eveline remembering the past, remembering how she played in an abandoned field with her siblings and neighbors. “One time there used to be a field there in which they used to play every evening with other people’s children … the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns, little Keogh the cripple, she and her brothers and sisters.” The story returns to the present briefly as Eveline thinks about her home and how the field is no longer there, just as the children that played there have either passed or moved away. The story then moves on into the future, as she thinks of the life she could have if she moved with Frank to Buenos Ayres. “But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that. Then she would be married she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then.” These two times, the past and the present are the two opposing forces; one that is pushing her out of Dublin, the allure of the other is getting her to leave Dublin.
The past and future both seem at first glance to be moving Eveline to going to Buenos Ayres with Frank. The fact that the past has left her behind, “That was a long time ago; she and her brothers and sisters were all grown up, her mother was dead … Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home.” Also, her relationship with her father was pushing her away. “But latterly he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake. And she had nobody to protect her.” Also, the allure of a future with Frank was drawing her away. “She was to go away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Aires.” However, it is the past that comes back to haunt Eveline and eventually make her stay in Dublin. “Now that she was about to leave it [her life] it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.” And later when thinking of her mother, “Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could.” When faced with the moment of leaving, Eveline could not forget her past and escape reasons for not leaving.
I think James Joyce could have had a similar panic attack when he was about to leave Ireland. He also had elements of Ireland that he wanted to escape (the nature of the literary revival), he took a woman with him (the second time he left Ireland) just as Frank took Eveline. He saw the benefits of leaving, after all, his most productive writing, including Dubliners was written outside of Ireland. However, the draw of his homeland and the idea of leaving his mother probably weighed against the allure of leaving. In the end, Eveline’s balance tipped one way, and Joyce’s the other way.