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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beauty and the Beast: Human or Animal? Joyce's Eveline by Eric Vaughn

From a close reading standpoint, the last two lines of Joyce’s “Eveline” stand out to me the most -- “She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition”. Joyce describes Eveline’s character as being quite animalistic in nature. Earlier he states that Eveline wants to remain at home because there is food and shelter. From an animalistic standpoint, food and shelter are probably the most important elements for survival. If one has these two things there is absolutely no reason to leave because one may not find food and shelter elsewhere. Eveline does not neglect their importance because she knows how hard life can be. Joyce even says that she has to work hard but realized how good her life was when she contemplated leaving it. Eveline is also described as having a “white face”. This, and supporting evidence of her eyes lacking any signs of love, indicates an absence of emotion or expressive thought on her part. Animals are not believed to exhibit such emotions as love hence what separates humanity from animality. For lack of a better reference, Eveline exhibits the dog-like quality of loyalty to companionship as opposed to actual love. Eveline doesn’t actually love Frank, “first of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like him.” But this quality really shines when she decides to remain loyal to her family. Eveline chooses to stay at home because she can’t even leave her semi-abusive father or abandon the dying wish of her mother to take care of the house and the family. However, what is most interesting in Eveline’s choice to respect her mother’s wishes is that she does so out of fear, not simply love and respect. Wolves are considered to be loyal because they have an established pack ranking where everyone understands their duty and their place. Training a dog is arguably a very similar relationship to a wolf pack. People sometimes train a dog by reward and others by fear. If a dog barks, its collar will shock him. If a dog tries to run past an invisible fence, his collar will shock him to teach him the boundaries of the fence as well as the risk of trying to run away. Eveline seems to respond to this fear more so than the desire for reward, especially since she turns away from the uncertain yet enticing future she thinks she could have with Frank even though the reader can tell that Frank is false. I will be honest in saying that I don’t know how such a characteristic of Eveline could apply to Irish history, but I merely wanted to address the potential of such an idea.

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