Trapped in a world where mental anguish imprisons her, Eveline is another of James Joyce’s paralyzed souls. Her life is full of ups and downs. Every day she struggles with burdens that she should not have to bear and when the opportunity comes for her to get away from this retched life, she denies herself the chance. The reasons why I feel Eveline did not leave for Buenos Aires with Frank is because she was obligated to her family, she was afraid of the unknown and she did not know how to receive love.
“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.” (Joyce 32) How is it possible for one to not follow out a parent’s last wish? Eveline’s mother’s last request was for her to take care of the family. That is a great responsibility to be put into a child’s hands. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy, so why did she go along with something that would only continue to make her life miserable? Eveline felt tangled knowing that it was all up to her to keep the family together, and to support her father, so she decides to stay. “She always gave her entire wages-seven shillings-…” (Joyce 30). This is again another example of what Eveline does for her family. After working all hours of the day, in the end, she gives all of her earnings to her father. It gives her a sense of purpose in a weird sort of way.
Would she have that same feeling of belonging if she went off to Buenos Aires with Frank? Maybe that is why she did not go, because she just did not know what her future would hold. “‘Come! … Come!’ Along with this clear, but not schematic pattern, Joyce emphasizes ambiguities. Eveline’s twilight musing on home and the adventurous alternative to which she ‘had consented,’ poses the explicit question, for the reader and character, ‘Was it wise?’” (Hart http://f33.mail.yahoo.com/ym/us/ShowLetter?YY=96460&order=down&sort=date&pos=0) This question which Hart also finds intriguing is very strong. Eveline has begun to question her happiness. “Could she still draw back after all he had done for her?” (Joyce 33) She questions whether it is really better for her to go off with Frank and let him be her savior, but again, she declines. “No! No! No! It was impossible.” (Joyce 33) Once again because she is so terrified of that which lies a mystery, she decides to stay with what she knows.
It is obvious in the text that Frank has very deep feelings for Eveline, but could she accept that this man actually loves her? He took time out to do things with her to show her how he felt. “He took her to see The Bohemian Girl and she felt elated as she sat in an accustomed part of the theater.” (Joyce 31) “He used to meet her outside of the Stores every evening and see her home.” (Joyce 31) He treated her well, so why did she again repudiate his offer? She did not know how to accept this type of love that Frank had to offer. How could she ever measure up to what he deserved? Eveline never realized that love is unconditional and that she was being loved for who she was. She was always expected, by her family to do certain things to prove herself that she never knew how to accept love. “‘Eveline! Evvy!’ He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.” Frank was the one thing that Eveline had that was good in her life and she lets it drift away. She is so used to pain that she doesn’t know how to react when Frank expresses his love for her.
“She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her.” (Joyce 32) Although Eveline knew that her life could be beautiful with Frank, she just can not build up the courage to get on that ship to leave with Frank. The chains that bind Eveline such as her family, her fears of the unknown and her lack of response to love are extremely corroded, but no matter how much they are consumed, there was indeed no easy way for her to break away from this bondage.
Joyce, James: Dubliners, 1999 Barnes & Nobles Books
Hart, Clive: http://f33.mail.yahoo.com/ym/us/ShowLetter?YY=96460&order=down&sort=date&pos=0,
(Source- Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st Edition, edited by Noelle
Watson, St. James Press, 1994)