Importance of Setting in Eveline of James Joyce's Dubliners

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Eveline: The Importance of Setting

Setting is one of the most significant elements in a story. The setting goes far beyond the simple physical attributes and external face value. It seems "Eveline" solely takes place in Dublin in an old room, but the setting actually plays a key role in the story. The setting in "Eveline" helps the reader to better understand the behavior of the main character. The setting in "Eveline" is paralyzing, and this helps the reader to understand why Eveline does not go with Frank to Buenos Aires.

In the majority of the story Eveline "sat at the window," (512) which parallels with her paralysis because she does not move. Eveline "was going to go away like the others" (512) because she was one of the only people left in Dublin from her childhood. However, Eveline doesn't go since she is trapped in her setting. Almost nothing in Eveline's setting ever changes throughout her life. The significance of Eveline looking around the room "reviewing all its familiar objects" (512) is that she "never dreamed of being divided" from them. All around her Eveline "had those she had know all her life about her" (512). Eveline is a product of her environment. The reader can see how the setting never changes, Eveline's life molds to it. This explains the reason for her not going away and starting a much happier life.

It is extremely hard for her to make the decision of whether or not to go with Frank because she only knows one way. Eveline understands that she has "a hard life,"(513) and she has the chance to go to a place where "it would not be like that" (513). However, it scares Eveline to change her setting. After thinking about leaving she did not find her present setting as "wholly undesirable" (513) as she previously did. The latter part of "Eveline" is set by the sea. This sea is a symbol of rejuvenation for Eveline. Much like in "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin, the sea is a way to escape life. "All the seas of the world tumble around her heart," (515) and Eveline is unable to flee from her life to go away with Frank. Eveline's mind has been subconsciencly designed by her environment, and she can't imagine living life any other way. Eveline is so confused and doesn't know what is holding her back, but something is.

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