Story Analysis of ‘Eveline’ by James Joyce

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It’s Bloomsday today, representing the commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read Eveline by James Joyce.  

You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

James Joyce is an Irish author and one of the significant figures in modern literature. His first important work, Dubliners (1999), which revolves around the lives of the Irish, is regarded as one of the best short stories written in English. Literary critics have compared him second to only Shakespeare.

He challenged the traditional techniques in novel writing and experimented with the use of language and style. He’s created his distinct stream-of-consciousness writing technique, among others, and his influence remains a force among the current generation of writers.

Story Analysis 

Eveline by James Joyce is one of the short stories from the Dubliners. Like the other stories in the collection, Eveline explores the Irish people’s thoughts, dreams, hopes, and anxieties. 

The story opens with Eveline, the 19-year-old protagonist gazing outside her window and looking at the world outside. Much like a bird or animal in a cage and yearning for freedom. 

The author then takes us on a trip inside Evaline’s mind. Joyce uses the interior monologue technique for the remaining most of the story. We learn about her father and her family, comprising two brothers before their mother died. We understand that Evaline’s father controls her in a suffocating patriarchal environment. And all she craves for is a sweet escape. 

She speculates the gossip that would follow her elopement with her lover, Frank, at her workplace. Evaline’s sure that Miss. Gavin, her superior, would be relieved to see her go away for good. She hopes and dreams of a happily-ever-after future with Frank which will set her free for the rest of her life. 

She decides she deserves the right to happiness, too, and justifies her planned elopement with Frank later that night. However, she’s also sad to leave behind her home, which she’d never imagined she’d part with someday. Here, we see Joyce use repetition to heighten Evaline’s desperation and her high hopes pinned on Frank.

“She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. 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.”

Evaline is paralyzed in her thoughts and actions as she ponders if the known devil is any better than an unknown one. Apart from her inertia, there’s also a lot of religious symbolism, like the mention of “dust” and epiphanies during the recollection of her mother and towards the climax. 

Some critics strongly opine that Eveline is a metaphor for Ireland. And that lends a wholly different colour, depth, and perspective to the story, as Ireland desired freedom from Britain. 

Did you read Eveline by James Joyce, and what are your views about it? 

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.