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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Joyce's "Eveline": Separation from the Outside World

You can run away from a man with a stick in a grassy field, but you can’t swim away from a man with a boat in the middle of the ocean.
Such an attitude did Joyce’s Eveline adopt in comparing her Irish home life to a distant life in Buenos Ayres. Joyce’s Eveline acknowledged a sense of suffering in her home life in Ireland. An oppressive home life, in which her father favored her brothers “because she was a girl”, had transformed itself into an odd dichotomy where she now had to manage both two young children as well as her disrespectful father. She recalls how her father “used often to hunt them in out of the field with his blackthorn stick” and how her friends had gone to distant places, either death or England. Then they had run away from him, and they “seemed to have been rather happy then.” Now on a much larger scale, she was to run away “like the others, to leave her home” to recreate that sense of happiness.
Yet her exploration was to be dictated by the unfamiliar, a shadowy, interloping sailor named Frank. Captivated by his tales “as deck boy” on a ship bound for Canada and sailing through the Strait of Magellan, she contemplates a foreign marriage with Frank. However, the prospect of a “distant unknown country” eventually compelled her to stay. She knows nothing about foreign life, tastes, and cultures. Eveline and her father relate the Italian organist’s piece to melancholy not based on any expert judgment but rather the recent death of her mother. She reflects how she would never see the priest’s photograph “from which she had never dreamed of being divided.” Her lack of rational reflection, coupled with her abundance of narrow experiences, led her to believe “he would drown her” in foreign life, separating her from the refuge of the familiar.

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