Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eveline and the Issue of Change - Presented by Students Maren M., Taryn S., and Lejla K.

By Taryn, Lejla, and Maren 

During a discussion over "Eveline" earlier this week one of our classmates mentioned that Eveline is not so much afraid of making decisions as she is of change. After rereading the story we realized that Eveline has had a number of traumatic "changes" in her life, including the deaths of her mother and her favorite brother. The one potentially positive change in her life was Frank, although the reader, along with Eveline, is not sure whether or not they can trust Frank to keep his promises once they leave Dublin. Maybe if Eveline was more confident in her feelings for Frank, she would have been less afraid of the dramatic change he would cause in her life. 
As far as we could tell, the only time Eveline described her feelings for Frank was with the phrase "pleasantly confused" which is not the phrase one should use to describe the feelings you have for someone you are going to marry. Ultimately, Eveline's problem does not stem from her inability to defy her father, she had, after all, continued to meet with Frank after her father refused to allow her to see him again, but her inability to trust herself to make the right decision when a drastic change to her life is involved. After so many negative changes in her life, some of which she may wrongfully blame herself for, Eveline's ability to make decisions had been "paralyzed" by events outside of her control. 
Joyce even goes as far as to state "everything changes" within the story and since Joyce was never one to waste words, we can only assume that this phrase represents a major theme of "Eveline." Although he does not allow Eveline to specifically state how she feels about change, we feel that her decision to not leave with Frank at the conclusion of the story shows that she feels like she cannot bring herself to trust the change in her life that she so desperately wanted. 
Questions for readers:
-Do you agree with our conclusion about why Eveline could not leave Dublin? 
-Do you think Eveline returned home from the docks or did she go somewhere else?
-Do you think the story reflects Joyce's view of women? And what is that view?
-Is Frank a real prospect of change? Or is he just another man that will potentially try to control her?


  1. I find the conclusion to be very convincing, and yes, the trauma of change can be so paralyzing - especially when the change comes from forces beyond our control. In the field of trauma studies, researchers repeatedly make the point that trauma victims are often paralyzed emotionally, mentally, and perhaps even physically because the traumatic change lacks closure or meaning for them. The traumatic memory continually returns to haunt that person while always eluding that person’s ability to understand it; the experience fails to fit one’s conceptual scheme for making sense of the world. Researchers and therapists, therefore, often emphasize the importance of working towards closure by continually telling one’s traumatic story. Narrative helps us integrate such disruptive experiences back into our adopted conceptual scheme.

    I think of the fact that this is the first story not told from a first person perspective. Eveline cannot tell her story; therefore, her traumas continue to paralyze her. I also think about the other female characters of Dubliners; their stories remain completely silent.

  2. B.F. says:
    "It seems, as many in the class before have said, as if Eveline is looking for escape in the wrong place. She seems to think that she can move to Buenos Aires and experience complete freedom, freedom in every direction, hindered by nothing. But she will find in Buenos Aires the exact kind of freedom that she found in Dublin, because she isn't truly hindered by her father in Dublin, but by her perception of reality. As the ending of the story shows, she is unable to imagine an existence without her father, or the social constraints that come with that--and if she cannot imagine an existence without that, how much more must the rest of her existence be limited? If separated from the societal structures that confine and sustain her, would she stand on her feet or be torn apart? She seems to think that she is limited by a force from without, but her existence is truly limited by a lack from within.

  3. It's very hard to say whether Eveline went home or not, but I would say that she did. I agree with your conclusion that she is afraid of change, and therefore I doubt that she would go anywhere besides home. Yet on the subject of the aftermath of the story, I wonder whether she would regret her decision and perhaps be driven mad by her own paralysis. Therefore, I pose another question: what do we all think happened after the end of Eveline?

  4. I agree with the conclusion that Eveline is paralyzed by choice due to the negative associations with drastic changes that is present thanks to the traumatic experiences she has had in the past. A response to a mixture of the third and fourth questions: perhaps Eveline's problem is that, no matter who she chooses, both of her choices end with her having to rely on another man ( Frank or her drunken father) rather than on herself. Due to the time period (late 19th-early 20th century Ireland), unmarried women have very few social or legal rights and must be attached to a man in order to have any sort of significant social standing, or indeed any guarantee of a livelihood. To be short, the problem is that both of her choices end in her being unable to control her life in a meaningful way. Just a thought

  5. To answer the question about whether or not Frank will try to control Eveline, I think that this question implies a distrust in Frank that is not deserved. While we are given very little about his personality, we are also given no reason to distrust him. Eveline already lives in an abusive and controlled environment, and that environment is in Dublin. Dublin, in all of the stories, is very clearly and undesirable place to live in, and I think that even if Frank turned out to be controlling and abusive, Joycce would still have said that Eveline is better off because she is no longer in Dublin.
    Jonathan C

    1. I think it is somewhat fair to mistrust Frank. While I see your point that Frank represents being away from the misery of Dublin, I still think that, as others have said above, Eveline is hindered most by her internal inability to be an active force in her own life. She merely sits by and lets things happen to her, never actually choosing to do something she wants because she doesn't understand what she wants. Ultimately I think her love of Frank is misguided, and in the end she doesn't choose to stay in Dublin; rather, she chooses not to act at all, which results in staying.

    2. I don't think the issue is only that Frank may or may not be untrustworthy, but that Eveline's very quick engagement to Frank is the issue. Her love is certainly suspect with conditions at home pressing her to leave. Her paralysis results from her realization of her misguided love and her inability to remain at home with her abusive father.

  6. I agree that it is Eveline's fear that is keeping her from leaving Dublin. I think that maybe Eveline has some deep psychological issues that are hindering her from leaving Dublin with Frank. All the people in her life that have left her: her mother, siblings, Tizzie Dunn (possible friend?)& the Waters. Eveline suffers from a fear of abandonment and is reluctant to leave Dublin because maybe she sees Dublin as a "companion" that she does not want to leave.

  7. Eveline is in my opinion paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, which ultimately makes it hard for her to accept change. Since majority of the changes in her life have been negative she is scared of what will happen if she were to go with Frank. We never know if Eveline goes home. I like to think that she is so stuck in her doubtful thought process she can't make a straight decision. Her doubt and fear ultimately cause her to miss a new opportunity, but we never know if the doubt and fear fueled her to go home

  8. Going along with Connie's idea that Eveline suffers from a fear of abandonment, or is at least affected negatively by this abandonment, I think she resents the way it has changed her life. I think a possible reason she doesn't leave Dublin is because she can't bring herself to do the same to her father that her mother, siblings, and friends did to her (intentional or not), especially after promising to take care of her father.

  9. The question has been posed of if Frank is a prospect for change, it is evident he is prospect for change. This is because he offers to take her to South America. That is evidently a substantial change, this atleast offers Eveline hope for change.
    The issue of wether or not Frank offers prospect to be a different man can't be said with certainty, however there is no evidence that supports him not controlling her. Therefore we can only come to the conclusion she will be controlled by Frank.