Irish Literature 3
17 February 2013
In 20th Century Ireland, the practice of marriage remained very strict due to the religious standards of the time. The majority of the Irish population remained strictly Roman Catholic while a small population in the north remained Protestant. The Roman Catholic view on marriage remains to be that marriage should stay within the religion and be life-long, or until death due you part. With divorce removed as an option for the women of the time, and the expectation that a woman would get married earlier in life, it became no surprise that many women became unhappy with their love lives. James Joyce’s Dubliners, a collection of short stories, tells the sad love stories of man Irish women of the time. These stories prove that women, whose only goal becomes to get married like society told them to do so at the time, will end up ultimately stuck in a lifelong pursuit of happiness in religious love that drives them to desperation.
One of the youngest love stories in the book presents itself in the story of “Eveline”. In this story Eveline, a teenage girl, finds herself struggling to make her next move in life. She longs for the love of Frank, her sailor, but feels conflicted about what her relationship with him entails. Eveline does not have an easy home life, which makes her decision to leave with her lover all the more difficult. Eveline lives and breathes the poverty stricken life of many Dubliners, and for her this remains familiar and tradition. Running away with a sailor to a faraway land would not be approved of by anyone in the town of Dublin. Her longing to get married and have a normal life drives her to make plans to leave the country and elope. At first she believes that it will be a good thing when she says, “Then she would be married---she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then” (21). Eveline believes that getting married will be the answer to all of her problems because traditionally marriage would be the only thing that should matter to a woman in life. In this time, getting married meant sacrificing everything about your previous life in the pursuit of happiness within someone else’s life. The difference in Eveline’s story becomes that she has so many others depending on her already, and to totally give up her previous life would be a gigantic sacrifice. Eveline has many younger siblings who rely on her as a stand in mother, due to the fact that her mother had passed a few years before. Eveline must help also to provide for the family because her father has little drive and spends most of his time drinking and abusing the children. With so many people counting on her the decision to leave and do what most women of her age would do becomes even harder. In her time of need Eveline, “prayed to god to direct her, to show her what was her duty” (23). Eveline holds faith in God, as most Irish did at the time, and her decision would be made by what she thinks God would most likely approve of. Although Eveline’s religion would approve of marriage, in this instance her marriage would take her away from the people who keep her within the religion. An elopement at the time would have been frowned upon, and although Eveline loved Frank she knew that God would not approve of what she was doing. Her pursuit of happiness was a desperate attempt to get married and escape the life she lived. Although Eveline did not follow the path that most women would have, it becomes clear that women of the time were pressured to marry and sacrifice everything for the man they chose. Eveline’s lover would not have been the ideal choice for typical happiness for the Dublin woman, and this restriction set up by the church drives Eveline to stay where her beliefs and heritage are deeply rooted. Eveline will spend her life pursuing a happiness that cannot exist with the restrictions set in place upon the people within Dublin.
In the next story of...