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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Love Versus Escape in "Eveline"

In James Joyce's story "Eveline," the titular character seeks freedom from the oppression of her abusive father in the form of a new life with her lover, Frank. Eveline contemplates life abroad with Frank and the new opportunities such escape promises. The opportunity to live a life away from the burdens of her home and father entices Eveline to agree to accompany Frank on his journey to Buenos Ayres. While this may seem to be a reasonable goal for a young woman who is in love, Eveline's concentration on Frank as a vehicle for her emancipation undermines the reader's expectation of romantic interest. She speaks fondly of Frank throughout the story, though her true intentions are revealed when she says: "He would give her life, perhaps love too" (Joyce, 31). This statement is structured in such a way as to marginalize love in lieu of the promise of a better life. That is, Eveline desires Frank not as a figure of adoration or romantic connection, but as a means of escaping the bonds of her oppressive home life. What she construes as a feeling of affection for Frank is merely a subconscious recognition of Frank's ability to extricate her from home and transplant her within a new geography. Here, far from the realities of her past, she would be able to start a new life, with or without Frank. This is where the danger lies for Eveline. She values Frank as little more than the sailor he is-- a means of transportation. It is likely, therefore, that Frank values Eveline as little more than an object of desire. He wishes to whisk her away to a new and exotic land where they may be together. But since neither of them are actually seeking mutual love, it is unlikely that a healthy relationship will form. But that does not seem to bother Eveline, for as long as she has a new life, love can wait.

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