Monday, March 14, 2011

Short Story Monday: "Eveline" by James Joyce

"She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired."

The opening lines of "Eveline" by James Joyce create an immediate sense of loneliness or isolation in this very interior story.  The bookmark in my copy of Dubliners hasn't moved in months, but Irish Short Story Week hosted by Mel U at The Reading Life provided the motivation to finally return to this classic.

Our story occurs mainly in Eveline's mind. While recollecting happier childhood days when her father 'wasn't as bad', and her mother and favorite brother were still alive, she becomes wistful. But, 
"Everything changes.  Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home."
She pauses to reflect on home, question the decision to leave, and examine her hope to be respect as a married lady in a new country. Eveline does not want to be treated as her mother had been. With no one to protect her, she is afraid of her father's violence, yet she has two younger sibling to care for. And then there is the promise made to her mother. But what about Frank and the possibility of a new life as his wife?

Eveline's plight was not uncommon; few choices were available for women in early 20th century Ireland. Leaving offered the only opportunity for a better life, yet ties to family, home, and the past often proved too strong to be broken. Eveline is left paralyzed... as trapped as a 'helpless animal'.

Dubliners was first published in 1914, and "Eveline" may be read online.
Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.


  1. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo, not Joyce! (Sorry, I think I'm traumatized by Ulysses.)

  2. This rings a bell for me. I think it's one I read a long time ago. Now I'll have to read it to be sure. It sounds so lonesome and sad yet the language is beautiful. I've been longing to get back to Short Story Monday again. Sometime soon.

  3. Softdrink - These short stories seem so much more readable than what you've been through. Did I mention how impressed I am that you were able to finish that monster?

    Carolsnotebook - It was... didn't know Joyce had an appreciation for the plight of unmarried women.

    Margot - Even though it was sad, I really appreciated this story. Unmarried women had so few opportunities at that time, and I didn't really expect Joyce to acknowledge that. This is my first Short Story Monday in a while... I'm trying to get back in the habit, too.

  4. I had know idea James Joyce wrote stories with a feminist angle, but it sounds as if this does. Would that be a fair statement?

  5. I read 'Dubliners' in high school. His short stories are so much more accessible to the "regular" reader than any of his novels, for sure. I may have to take a look at is again.

    I read a David Foster Wallace story this week.

  6. John Mutford - Definitely a fair statement! Joyce taking a feminist angle was a surprise to me, too.

    Teddy Rose - I agree. There's no way in the word I would EVER read Ulysses, but the stories in Dubliners are very approachable.

  7. Thanks so much for participating in Irish Short Story week-I have read two Joyce short stories, "The Dead" and "Two Sisters"- I think I may soon start trying to read one every other day or so-only 12 to go-I enjoyed your post a lot-thanks again

  8. Mel U - I plan to read the rest of the stories in Dubliners... thanks for providing the extra incentive I needed!

    Staci - Joyce terrifies me, too. That's why I have been pleasantly surprised by the stories in Dubliners - the ones I've read so far have been very approachable. Who would have thought??

  9. Hi-in honor of Bloomsday I have just done a post on this story-I linked back to your great post

  10. Thanks, Mel. Happy Bloomsday!


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