Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fear and Change in Joyce's Eveline

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Fear and Change in James Joyces’ “Eveline”


In the short story “Eveline,” by James Joyce, there is a continuous feeling of fear inside the protagonist’s thoughts. Although Eveline has been given a chance to escape the mundane life she lives and marry the man she’s always dreamed of, Joyce helps the reader understand furthermore why she opts not to go. Joyce develops the idea that some people are not quick to change and prefer to stay with what is familiar no matter how awful the lifestyle may be. By using a continuous parallel between fear and change, Joyce uses allegory to define Eveline’s true feelings about the hardships of life, and her perturbation of exploring happiness and love.


In the beginning of the story Joyce helps us see Eveline’s true feelings about the hardships of life. As she sits by her window, feeling tired, the author helps the reader begin to understand the fear of change Eveline has been feeling for so long. For example she starts remembering her childhood days when “there used to be a field there, in which they used to play every evening with other peoples children.” She then starts thinking about the change brought to this town as a “man from Belfast bought the field and built houses in it.” Joyce is helping us see that Eveline thinks about change very often. She is constantly thinking of the consequences change brings. In this occasion, she is thinking about the fear caused by the environmental change in her town. This caused her to be deprived from her friends and those loved ones she cared for. No longer could she play outside with those who she truly loved. Her friends the “Waters” and the “Dunns” all moved away. The very name “Waters” came from the expression “navigated waters.” Sure enough they moved away from Eveline and on to the new world in England. Also, the name “Dunn” means hill or castle; something unreachable. The choice of names used here show us the authors’ use of allegory, or hidden meaning, proving that the moving of her friends to other places brought fear and sadness to Eveline’s heart. From the beginning she hides that feeling of fear towards change.


Another hardship in Eveline’s life is her relationship with her father. The protagonist tells us “her father used to often hunt them in out of the field with his blackthorn stick.” The words “hunt” and “blackthorn” express the pain and abnormality in Evelines life. Inside she felt unprotected, unsafe. The very fact that her father used to “hunt” them, gives us the idea that she was seen as a worthless possession, maybe an animal, who no one cared for. Her father is a domineering and unfair man, who makes Eveline work and then keeps her wages. He ridicules her. She knew it was her job to take care of her father and two younger siblings, because it was a promise she had made to her mother before she died. Yet the character isn’t expressing her own personality, but rather her moral obligations, which is what an allegory does.


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Although Eveline is living an awful life, the story focuses on the theme of escape. She has been given a chance to escape the walls of Ireland and marry her fellow Frank. “It had been an excitement for her to have a fellow.” Joyce really is meaning that it was exciting for her to have a first person she truly loved and loved her in return. Finally a chance of change, a good change. Frank, who is a sailor, always tells her of his tales in different countries. Joyce again shows us his use of allegory, showing us that Frank is the one who will “sail” Eveline out of her worries. Yet again he brings the continuous parallel of Evelines desire to change and her fear to do so.


Joyce reveals Eveline’s perturbation towards change since the beginning of the story. But now he shows us her mixed feelings of change towards Frank. For example, when she sits by the window, “she could hear a street organ playing.” This noise reminded her of the last night of her mother’s illness. “She was again in the close dark room at the other side of the hall and outside she heard a melancholy air of Italy.” This noise that reminds her of her last night with her mother clearly is a method used by Joyce to convey the idea that the feelings she will experience next are very important.


Eveline was “happy” to be leaving the home where she had spent “dusting every week for so many years.” The fear was still locked up in her soul throughout all this time, but she knew that change was on its way. Before she leaves Frank though, again Eveline is faced with the challenges of fear and change. She begins to remember the last words her mother uttered before her death “Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!” These words, which mean the end of pleasure is pain, show the importance of Joyce’s allegory. Here the author is making the reader understand that Evelines mother’s life had been a crucial one. How must her life have been like in order for her to say these words before her death? Joyce tries to use this technique of going beyond the literal meaning to let us feel what Eveline is feeling. Eveline knows that her mother had a poor life. The story shows she is confused about marriage and happiness, due mainly because of her mother’s own


experience. The truth that is hidden is that she really is scared to let go of her present lifestyle.


Joyce wraps up the two levels of meaning in this story, fear and change, in his final paragraphs. When Eveline prays to God to direct her, she hears a “long mournful whistle” from the boat where Frank awaits. This last proof Joyce uses is showing how Eveline knows she’s scared that her life with Frank will be a miserable one. The “long mournful” sounds of the whistle are Eveline’s own screams for help coming from the inside. She is confused with love and happiness, fear and change. She is more scared of her future with Frank, and the possibility of experiencing the same conditions her mother went through, instead of fearing her own hard life at home. In the end “her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell… like a helpless animal.” Joyce truly makes us see his use of allegory, by proving that Eveline lets her one chance to be revitalized slip away, as she watches Frank disappear into the exotic waters. The hidden meaning is that she knows her obligation is with her family, and as much as she wants to get away from it, the truth is this lifestyle has become a part of her forever. Her time of pleasure with Frank was now over, and back to her harsh life it was.


It is clear that a parallel between fear and change is developed throughout the story, a technique that is good to use when using allegory. Joyce clearly shows how our fear towards change sometimes is greater than any other fear we have. Eveline’s fear of not knowing what her future is going to be like stops her from leaving the horrible life she lives. Therefore we learn the hardships in her life as well as her perturbation for love and happiness.











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