In Dubliners, James Joyce portrays relationships in the nineteenth century to be unequal. Women live in servitude to their men folk, and are portrayed as the weaker sex whereas children are hardly seen or heard. The position of women and children under masculine dominance in Joyce’s stories runs in parallel to the political position of Ireland as the conquered neighbour of imperial England. Consequently, just as the native language of Ireland was hushed, the voices of his women and children are muted too, and simultaneously their actions are subject to their male superiors’ dictations. Society in nineteenth century Ireland condemns single women to loneliness and isolation. We see this with Eveline, who believes she will only be respected when she is married, and Mrs Sinico who is depressed, trapped in a loveless marriage. In some of the other pieces I have read, this same failure of relationships is clear as there seems to be a barrier that prevents many Irish from establishing good relationship.
In “Eveline” Joyce portrays the nineteen year old Eveline as lonely and oppressed. Eveline’s relationship with her father is dysfunctional. He is abusive towards her and threatens to go for her.
“She sometimes felt in danger of her father’s violence, she knew it was that that had given her the palpitations.”
Eveline can only remember two occasions when her father was kind to her. They have no communication, Joyce shows this when Eveline still does not know the name of the Priest in the picture on her living room wall after all these years. Her father is portrayed as a possessive and jealous man. This is shown by him forbidding Eveline from seeing Frank. James Joyce uses symbols for their relationship such as “dusty” throughout the story to emphasise the feeling that it is a broken down and dysfunctional relationship.
Though Eveline’s mother is deceased, their relationship is strongly felt as having been dysfunctional also. Her mother made her promise on her deathbed that Eveline would look after the house “as long as she could”, knowing that in a way, this would destroy Eveline’s chance of happiness and a normal teenage life. Eveline does not wish to be like her mother; with a life of “commonplace sacrifices”. It terrifies her; therefore she wishes to “escape”.
Eveline is portrayed as a pretty heartless character. We see this when she talks about her brothers. She never mentions loving anyone in the story but says she “liked” one of her brothers.
Joyce portrays Eveline’s social life as dysfunctional also, as she is seen as exploited at work by Miss Gavan. She believes that if she were to marry Frank, she would then gain the respect she deserves.
“Then she would be married – she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then.”
Eveline’s relationship with Frank could be mistaken for being based on love, but Joyce makes it clear that it is based on exploitation on both parties. Eveline sees Frank as a means to escape from her mundane life, and is using him in the same way she has been used all her life. It is not clear why Frank is using Eveline, but knowing that she is nineteen and that she wouldn’t be legally allowed to marry Frank until she was twenty one, his intentions can be assumed dishonourable.
In the end, in a state of paralysis, Eveline returns to the only life she knows. Frank leaves for Buenos Ayres and she seems passive and immune to any feeling or emotion.
“Like a helpless animal. Her eyes give him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.”
James Joyce uses Eveline as an example of the suppression and oppression in Ireland at that time.
In “The Sisters”, Joyce portrays the Priest as a pretty repulsive character,
“When he smiled he used to uncover his big discoloured teeth and let his...