Professor Leslie Watley
18 Jan. 2011
James Joyce’s “Eveline” is a short story focused on a young woman facing a difficult decision. The setting and time period of the story are important to fully understand Eveline’s situation. Dublin, Ireland, in the early 20th century, was a place where everyone’s life was deeply rooted in and guided by Catholicism. Women were subjected to oppression from both the church and male dominated society. Eveline is torn between starting a new life in another country with a man she barely knows and honoring a promise made to her dying mother despite the unhappiness it causes her. In the end, she passively submits “like a helpless animal” (Joyce 4-7), keeping her vow to her mother; morally unable to break her promise. Eveline belongs to an Irish Catholic family; she has been taught that the church demands self sacrifice and obedience. The picture in Eveline's family living room of a priest, who went to school with her father, and “the coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque” (Joyce 4-7) serve as a constant reminder of the religious principles that direct her life. Promises made to a person on their deathbed are looked upon as sacred, a pledge always to be fulfilled by the one vowing to carry out the deceased’s wishes. Eveline’s promise to her dying mother, “to keep the home together as long as she could” (Joyce 4-7), is one she feels that she cannot break, even though she is suffering. With her mother having passed, characteristic of women in this era, Eveline is expected to take care of her childhood home. By conforming to this part of her life, she serves as housewife and mother without a husband. Joyce writes that Eveline struggled to keep her promise. Having been raised to be a dutiful daughter, obedient to the rule of her father, she believes herself obligated to stay at home and suffer through his mistreatment and drunkenness. In addition to caring for...