Historical background: Irish Social Conditions and Emigration Ireland has endured waves of emigration, particularly after1848. Many left their native land to seek a better life elsewhere. The Irish were second-class citizens within their own nation; Ireland was a British colony and the Northern Protestants controlled the economy of the country. Catholic families often faced hardship. Alcoholism and abuse, as portrayed in “Eveline” were rampant. As a result, many of the Irish sought to escape James Joyce represents everyday life of Dublin in the early twentieth century in his collection of short stories, Dubliners. Dubliners consists of 15 stories and each of them unfolds lives of many different Dubliners vividly. By describing details of ordinary life and characters' inner life, which is described by their interior monologue, Joyce succeeds in showing the realistic landscape of the inner space of Dubliners as well as that of outer space, the city Dublin at the turn of the century. Joyce tries to emphasize the fact that Dublin is not in the healthy state by showing unhealthy Dubliners. In Dublin, both spiritual and physical fathers are abnormal and the mother who stands for maternal love and fertility is dead. In a word, as Joyce thought, Dublin was the center of the paralysis in this early twentieth century. Under these conditions of inanimate life, Dubliners are trying to escape from the city. Identifying their lethargic reality with the place Dublin, they think escaping is a way "to live" they want to leave for the exotic Eastern world such as Persia or Arabia, or a distant unknown country such as Brazil (Buenos Ayres) or the Europe. When they try to be free from the place, however, they experience the moment that their fantasy is broken and face the raw reality.
"Eveline" begins with a young woman gazing out the window to a Dublin street. Her name, Eveline, could be a reference to the title character of a nineteenth-century pornographic novel, or it could be a reference to a song by the Irish poet Thomas Moore; either way, the name is likely to connote a woman sexually active before marriage. Smelling the dust from "cretonne" curtains, a heavy cotton material that is usually brightly colored, Eveline reflects on her life, beginning with her childhood. The Hill family, Catholic and working class, live in a "little brown" house distinct from the bright brick dwellings that stand on the old spot of Eveline's childhood playing field. A man from Belfast, a city that connotes the richer Northern Ireland that is largely populated by Protestants loyal to the English government, built the brick houses, and Eveline remembers the children that used to play on the field. She was happy then, when her father was less abusive and her mother was alive, and now, Eveline thinks, she is going to leave her home.
Looking at the objects around her that she might never see again, Eveline notices a colored print of promises made to Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun canonized in 1920, whose image was connected with domestic security and was common in Irish Catholic homes. Eveline remembers that the priest whose photograph is next to the print is in Melbourne now, which sends her thinking about whether or not she should leave home. She would not be sorry to leave her job; she works in the "Stores," a dry goods store in south Dublin, where her boss Miss Gavan is rude and embarrasses her. Eveline considers what it would be like in a faraway country, where she would be married and treated with respect, unlike her mother who had been abused by her father. Still afraid of her father's violence towards her to the point that it gives her spasms of fear (which, it is implied, may lead to a nervous breakdown), Eveline considers that with her brothers gone she is no longer safe. Her father has been threatening her, particularly when she asks him for money on Saturday nights, even though she gives him all of her wages, does the...
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