Joyce’s portrayal of thought in Eveline

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Joyce’s portrayal of thought in “Eveline”

Among the short stories in the collection Dubliners by James Joyce, “Eveline” is a story

wherein the reader views the world through the eyes of the eponymous heroine. In delineating

her contemplations, Joyce mainly uses the third person narrative with traces of free indirect

discourse. The narration sequence at first glance appears to be highly disconnected. However, it

is through the judicious use of both these devices that Joyce succeeds in portraying – with a great

deal of realism – the progression of thought in the human mind. By using this peculiar mode of

narration, Joyce makes us realize that, the process of thinking is not crisp and continuous after

the fashion of a well-crafted chain of deductive logic. Rather, this reader is presented with a

different paradigm – that of staccato bursts mistily but surely connected by the wispy links of

key phrases and events. The unmistakable message Joyce leaves us with is that human thought

does not proceed in a straight line.

“Eveline” is the story of a young girl – her memories, fears and aspirations. It is no mean

feat to convey the naked thoughts of a human being, to paint the dull and the bright shades of

feeling with like fidelity and to bring back what has been lost during the translation to words. We

can start to appreciate how Joyce does this by considering the distribution of sentences in some

of the paragraphs in the story. At first sight, the sentences appear to be rather slapdash in that

they do not bear the mark of being part of a continuous sequence of logical thought, as one

would expect from a piece of formal writing. The following lines illustrate this point:

“...she heard his footsteps clacking along th...

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...e shift from past to present. One could say that it is the pivot about which the frame of

reference is rotated from past into present. Of course, this is merely the most explicit example of

such temporal shifts that abound in this work. It should be noted however that rarely does such a

shift occur in the actual tense of the verbs involved. Rather, Joyce hints at it by using devices

such as that discussed above.

We can thus see that Joyce succeeds to a great extent in charting the currents of thought

in the mind of his protagonist in a most realistic way. The devices used are subtle and ingenious

and one might say – considering the period in which he created “Eveline” – very unconventional.

While Joyce’s breaking of conventions is apparent in “Eveline,” it is his novels, “Ulysses” and

“Finnegan’s wake” that offer a wider scope for this literary avant-garde.

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