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Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Hard-Knock Life: Coming of Age in James Joyce’s “Eveline”

Without question James Joyce’s story “Eveline” shadows a young girl struggling with the oppression and unjust ways of everyday Dublin life. However, accompanied by her own indignation, Eveline encounters what I like to call a coming of age, both emotionally and spiritually. Throughout the majority of the story, readers find Eveline constantly questioning and imagining an escape from her current lifestyle. “Home!... She had known the room for ten years – more – twelve years, and knew everything in it. Now she was going away” (Joyce, 216). Here, Eveline is considering those things that remain constant in her life. By going away, Eveline will be stripped of her ‘comfort blanket’, as her home and all that is familiar will be forgotten. Still, as Eveline “had consented to go away – to leave her home”, she began to ask “Was it wise – was it honorable?”(216). Weighing out the pros and cons of such a life altering decision, Eveline again takes into consideration her home and “those whom she had known all her life about her” (216). Eveline not only tied to her family and home, acknowledges her own social status and reputation. She ponders the thoughts of the town’s people and whether or not they will approve of her actions. However, “in her new home…she would be free from such indignities!” (216). Again, Eveline is expressing her displeasure for the current conditions surrounding her. Much of this could be credited to her abusive father and the mundane-ness of everyday life. In her mind, it was a hard life, “but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life” (217). Here, Eveline begins her transition from what I believe to be an unappreciative teenager, to a self-aware young adult. Leaving with Frank was something new and fresh for Eveline, the ultimate adventure. Yearning for a change of pace, she acted and based many decisions off of emotion. Still, at the end of the story Eveline remains at home, clinched on to an iron rail. This rail symbolizes the constants and comfort Eveline feels at home. She has managed to hold on to her values and roots amid times of emotional uncertainty. It is this constant questioning of her own oppression and unhappiness that allows Eveline to achieve a certain degree of insight. She learns that you cannot run away from all of life’s problems, and that the words of another individual, do not guarantee happiness. Ultimately, Eveline is like most young adults who struggle with the hardships of growing up. She has left her adolescent ways, in stepping towards maturity.

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