Background1: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

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Background1: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

Background for “Eveline”

  • 4th story out of 15 in Dubliners (“Araby” is the 3rd, so this comes immediately after it)

  • Joyce’s attempt to portray the social, religious, and personal restrictions (paralysis) placed on women in late 19th/early 20th century Ireland: Eveline must choose to either care for her father and family (and oblige the promise made to her mother), or leave Ireland for a foreign land with a sailor named Frank.


  • Stream of consciousness elements (3rd person narrator limited to Eveline’s thoughts and internal conflicts)

  • Realism/Naturalism (same thing): style of literature that attempts to portray realistic situations and leave interpretation up to the reader. Often intended by the author (and certainly is in this case) as social commentary. And related to this…

  • Dubliners is known for Joyce’s difficulties in finding a publisher who was willing to publish a book that contained such a negative tone towards religious and political institutions (and in some stories, sexual themes). Joyce, in reply to his publisher’s concerns: “I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass.” You have to love (or hate) that sort of undisguised pride in his work.

  • Symbolism: just because it’s realistic in content doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain symbolism, and in Joyce’s case, extensively so. Consider:

    • The Man from Belfast (who builds the house). Hint: a man from Belfast is a man from the North.

    • The photograph of the priest and the dust in Evie’s home

    • Buenos Aires (Ayres) (foreign land? Other? Escape? Intertextual allusion to Araby?)

    • Mention of The Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque: let me tell you a little about her.

    • Derevaun seraun! Derevaun seraun!

      • Subject to debated meanings amongst Joyce scholars. In the story, it’s the phrase Evie’s mother utters before her death, so at the least, she associates it with death. Could just be nonsense. Some Joyceians claim it to be corrupt Gaelic (Irish language—phonetically, it sounds like it) meaning any or none of the following:

        • Worms are the only end (thanks for that, Mom)

        • The end of pleasure is pain (not much better)

        • The end of song is raving madness (either way, it’s not good)

  • And of course, never forget the motif of paralysis in its many forms: social, physical, spiritual, etc, along with Joyce’s concept of the epiphany.

1 Much of this information is from

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