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In terms of class and locality the background of Eveline is not very different from that in the earlier stories. It comprises of a semi rural area where the small old brown houses have been surrounded by red brick buildings. Eveline, though a young girl is emotionally immature and repressed and seems to belong both to the old and new aspect of the locality.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
She is a nineteen-year-old immature emotionally undeveloped girl, and unable to decide between the gloomy present and unknown future.
Eveline’s dashing but gentle lover, a sailor, who promises to build her a home in Buenos Aires.
A shadowy but menacing bully who has ruined her mother’s life and is set to ruin hers.
A pathetic long-dead stereotype of the oppressed wife, who ensures that her daughter follows in her footsteps.
The protagonist Eveline, is a young girl of nineteen, who is enslaved by the rigid notion of family duty and can’t make the transition to freedom and adulthood.
Eveline’s father is the antagonistic and repressive authority in her life. She is helpless to break away from him.
The point where Eveline is to sail to Buenos Aires with Frank, her lover is the climax, when she finds she prefers the familiar slavery to the risks of the unknown.
In the end, Eveline refuses to accompany Frank, who is forced to sail away alone, leaving her to become a docile puppet in the mould of her mother.
From the start the mood is one of gloom and regret for her lost childhood joys. Eveline is seen always to remember the ‘happy’ past, so much preferred to her unhappy present, though she can’t break away from it.
With "Eveline", Joyce moves from childhood to the next stage of young adult hood. When it begins, Eveline a girl of nineteen is leaning against a window in her home, watching "the evening invade the avenue." She thinks back to when there was an open field before her house where they, as children, would play. Then came the bright, brick houses built by a man from Belfast, and the field had vanished. She and the others, her brothers, sisters and the neighbors, would keep playing, till her father came around with his blackthorn stick to order them indoors. The neighbor’s have moved away. Eveline is to go away, and in a nostalgic mood, she looks at each object in the room, including a yellowing photograph of a priest who had gone away to Melbourne. She plans to elope to Buenos Aires, with her lover Frank. But right now it is not of Frank that she thinks, but of all that she will be leaving-her home in which she had shelter and food, and the store where she is a salesgirl. She is not happy at either place. At work, she is pushed around by her bullying supervisor, Miss Gavan. At home, she is dominated and exploited by her violent father, for whom she keeps house. In childhood, his violence had been restricted to her brothers. Since the deaths of her mother and brother, and the departure of the second, she is becoming his target. She hands over her wages to him, and is expected to run the house on whatever amount she can wheedle out of him. She also looks after two small children, whom she baby-sits for their working parents.
Eveline looks forward to her new life with Frank who will love and respect her. She will not live in misery like her long- suffering mother. She thinks of Frank "very kind, manly and open hearted." That night, they are to board a ship for Buenos Aires, where he has a home ready for her. She had met Frank while on an errand to his lodgings. Initially flattered by his interest and by the idea of "having a fellow" she has grown fond of him. Frank’s life has been full of the adventure and excitement that hers has lacked-starting as a ‘deck-boy’, he has sailed all over the world and settled in South America. He had gone on a holiday to Ireland.
Inevitably, her father had found out about Frank and forbidden her to meet him. She had since been meeting him secretly, and they had planned to elope. Now she touches the farewell letters she has written to her brother Harry, and to her father. Eveline begins to muse over the rare occasions when her father had been ‘very nice’- he had read her a story and made her toast when she was ill; he had made them laugh at a prince when her mother had been alive.
Eveline hears snatches of an organ player’s song from another street, and it reminds her of the night of her mother’s death. Her father had forced an organ-player to leave the street as he had found the sound disturbing. Then Eveline had promised her mother to keep their home together as long as she could. She trembles, remembering her mother’s "life of common place sacrifices, closing in final craziness. She is filled with the urge to escape such a life. Frank "would give her life, perhaps love too... he would save her."
The story moves on to the dockside. Eveline stands there with Frank but can’t register what he says "over and over again." She is in a state of panic and "prays to God to direct her to show her what was her duty."
At the final moment before boarding the ship, Eveline can’t face the unknown future. She grips the railing hard, and won’t let go. Frank calls to her desperately but it is useless. He is forced to board the ship. She stays behind "passive, like a helpless animal." She rejects him silently "giving him no sign of love or farewell or recognition."
Up to this stage, Dubliners has been about children discovering an ugly and frustrating environment. In Eveline we have a young woman on whom such an environment has deeply imprinted itself, so that it stultifies her will, when she had the option to break free. Her home life is barren and loveless. She has no freedom even to spend her own earnings. There is an ever-present threat of violence at the father’s hands. There are no plans for an alternative marriage for her-only endless drudgery and submission. Yet this very same repressive environment has left her emotionally crippled, unable to escape and live a freer life.
Throughout Dubliners religion is seen as a repressive influence. Here too, the death bed promise to her mother, her prayer to god to show her ‘her duty’, are expressions of the dominating influence of religion, to which she succumbs.