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Eveline, Dubliners and James Joyce
"Eveline" is the story of a young teenager facing a dilemma where she has to choose between living with her father or escaping with Frank, a sailor which she has been courting for some time. The story is one of fifteen stories written by James Joyce in a collection called "Dubliners". These stories follow a certain pattern that Joyce uses to express his ideas: "Joyce's focus in Dubliners is almost exclusively on the middle-class Catholics known to himself and his family"(the Gale Group). Joyce's early life, family background, and his catholic background appear in the way he writes these stories. "Where Joyce usually relates his stories to events in his life, there are some stories which are actually events that took place in his life" (Joyce, Stanislaus). James Joyce in his letter to Grant Richard writes:
My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose
Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the center of paralysis. I tried to
present it to the indifferent public under four of these aspects: childhood,
adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. (5 May
1906; Selected letters). (Ingersoll)
In the story, Eveline's family is described poor, and they probably don't live a very comfortable life. The dust and Eveline's struggle for money mentioned in the story all go to explain the misery in their life: "Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to weary her unspeakably"(Joyce5). This misery also appears in other stories by Joyce like 'The Sisters' and 'Araby'. Joyce could have related his childhood days when his family was in some financial crises to the family background of Eveline in the story: "but the [Joyce's] family fortunes took a sharp turn for the worse during Joyce's childhood" (Gale Group). From the story, we are told that it is from this misery, and her father's attitude that Eveline decides she would leave home, although, she does not leave at the end of the story. Joyce could have been writing about the urge the had to leave Dublin during his youth because he: "[cites] the city of Dublin as the center of paralysis" (the Gale Group).
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In order to be consistent with the connection between Joyce's past experience and 'Eveline', we could take a look at 'The boarding house' and still notice the presence of his writing style. 'Eveline' and 'The boarding house' are two stories written by Joyce, where he writes about the effects of the Irish society on the young girls. "The heroin Evelyn, portrayed as a young girl burdened by responsibilities, represents the joyless life of the Irish." (The Explicator). Having lived through his childhood up to the end of his university education, Joyce has become aware of the life in Ireland and the ambition of young people to leave Ireland and be 'free'. In these two stories however, there is a kind of weakness in the two different girls because at the end of the stories, they both choose to continue their domestic roles.
'Eveline' and 'The boarding house' offers two portrayals of women
whose lives are structured and controlled by the stigma of femininity
attached to them by the stigma of their patriarchal societies. Each
ends up serving a domestic role, one realizing the gendered
aspect of their fate, the other not aware of any other option. (Ingersoll).
In these stories, Joyce writes about the rigid society which he grew in and how it affects these two girls in each case.
Another pattern, perhaps the most significant, is his catholic family background. Eveline comes from a strongly catholic family, her mother was catholic while she was alive, and Harry, her brother, is in the church decorating business. The picture of the priest which hangs on the wall in their house and whom she knew nothing about is also another catholic symbol in Eveline's life. Just like Eveline, Joyce has been raised in a catholic family. "His family was Roman Catholic" (Gale Group). His catholic background has made him familiar with the kind of life, putting him in a good position to be able to create characters with this kind of background. In the story, Eveline's mother wants her to become the dutiful daughter and keep the house: "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. She remembered the last night of her mother's illness."(Joyce 6). Similarly at one point in Joyce's life his mother wanted him to be a cleric. Although contrasting with Eveline, he did not keep a promise to his mother before she died: "Mary Jane Murray, Joyce's mother was a devout Catholic who had hoped for a cleric vocation for her eldest son."(Gale Group). However, Joyce did not become a cleric, but Eveline keeps her promise to her mother and she decides not to go away with Frank.
Joyce also writes some stories where a child lives through childhood and early adult life with only one parent or even parentless. A very good example is Eveline who has lost her mother and she is stuck with her father whom as earlier mentioned is somewhat cruel: "That was a long time ago; she and her brothers and sisters were all grown up; her mother was dead."(Joyce 5). Her mother was alive when she was still a child and she might have died when Eveline was in her early teenage years. Joyce's mother died when he was twenty-one and must have gone through the experience of losing a parent rather early in life, so he is able to create characters with this experience: "and her [Joyce's mother] death when James Joyce was only twenty-one signaled the end of the disrupted and impoverished family" (Gale Group). In two other stories, 'The Sisters', and 'Araby', Joyce took the first person perspective of a young boy, who is parentless, and lives with relatives: "Anonymous, of no specific age, ostensibly parentless (he lives with an aunt and uncle in "The Sisters" and "Araby"), he undergoes a series of somewhat traumatic experiences, well within the framework of ordinary childhood experiences" (Gale Group).
Joyce gets the materials he uses to write the other stories in the Dubliners collection from experiences, conversation with people, or in some cases from something he reads or hear and reflects on. A few examples are 'The Boarding House', 'Two Gallands', 'The Encounter', 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room'.
'The Boarding House' was suggested by the rude and fluent remarks about his [Joyce's] landlady and her daughter made by a little cockney who was the English teacher in the Berlitz school at Trieste when my brother was first transferred there. (Joyce, Stanislaus).
The idea for 'Two Gallands' came from the mention of the relations between Porthos and the wife of a tradesman in 'The three Musketeers'. (Joyce, Stanislaus)
'Ivy Day in the Committee Room' except the final poem, as I have said, he took from letters of mine, but it had never occurred to me that there could be story in them.(Joyce, Stanislaus).
'An Encounter' is based on an actual incident that occurred to my brother when we planned and carried out a day's miching together. (Joyce, Stanislaus).
It is very interesting how Joyce transforms all these experiences and events into characters which make up his stories.
Although the character Eveline might be different from Joyce, the way in which he creates this character and her background and the other stories in the Dubliner collection have certain similarities to his own past life: "In various ways Joyce wove the details of his own life into each of his novels, using these autobiographical materials as an imaginative fabric that he frequently re wove." Joyce creates his stories by writing about his early life, past experiences, his family, and his catholic background; all these patterns appears in his stories which he calls Dubliners.
Bidwell, Bruce. "The Joycean way: a topographical guide to "Dubliners" & "A portrait of the artist as a young man." Baltimore, MD.: John Hopkins UP, 1982.
Florio, Joseph. "Joyce's 'Eveline'." Explicatior. 181-85. 1993
Ingersoll, Earl G. "The stigma of femininity in James Joyce's "Eveline" and "The boarding House". The Gale group Literature resource center - periodical display.
Joyce James. "Eveline". Literature and writing process. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan Day, and Robert Funk. 4th ed. Upper saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1996.(4-6).
Joyce, Stanislaus. "James Joyce". Short Story Criticism: Experts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers. Ed. Sheila, Fitzgerald. 1989
The Gale Group. "James Joyce." Literature resource center - Document Display. . (2Feb 2000)