Welcome to the fourth week of Read With Me: Dubliners. This week we read ‘Eveline’, and the corresponding essay by Clive Hart, who also edits the essay collection, James Joyce’s Dubliners.
In this story…
We meet a new narrator. The young boy has been replaced with a young woman, called Eveline who is looking out of her window and mulling over her impending marriage and departure for her new home in Buenos Ares.
While there is a flurry of action toward the end of the story, the majority has Eveline sitting, looking out onto the world, and thinking about her situation. As a result, there is an undertone of voyeurism to the story, and nowhere is this more prevent than at the beginning. This voyeurism could easily translate into the stagnancy that we’ve seen in previous stories.
Eveline, unlike the boy, is given a tangible opportunity to escape through her marriage. She even views Frank, her fiancée, not as someone she loved but as someone through whom she can achieve her dream of escape.
‘He [Frank] would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live.— P.38
Her desire centres around her want to live rather than to be loved. As for her love towards Frank that does not hold the same impotence in her eyes as these other things. And yet, when her goals are within reaching distance when she is about to leave Dublin, she turns away from Frank and chooses to stay where she is. If life is something to be lived far away from her current situation, then maybe she is choosing the comfort of death. In this case, familiarity becomes as much of a comfort as it does a curse. As Clive Hart says, she refuses an opportunity for escape.
Hart describes Dublin as ‘a paralysed and a paralysing city’. I love this description and the way it inspires this implication of a toxic symbiotic relationship. Hart’s description suggests that Eveline is a paralysed character in a paralysed city. However, I’m not sure that Dublin is depicted as being completely paralysed in this story. In the beginning, Eveline describes how the field where she played as a child has been bought by a man from Belfast and developed into housing. On the one hand, this would suggest that the city is changing and growing. Alternatively, you may wish to argue that this example of change and growth is perpetrated by an outsider, in this case, from Belfast. Even the houses that are built stand out as being different from Eveline’s own. Therefore, any change comes from outside of Dublin.
What about you… Are you reading along with Dubliners, and if so, what did you think?
Dates for your diary:
‘After the Race’ on the 1st of May.
‘Two Gallants’ on the 8th of May.
‘The Boarding House’ on the 15th of May.