Eveline

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Eveline’s Mother Character Analysis

Eveline’s mother made a lot of sacrifices for her husband and family, and according to Eveline, didn’t receive respect from her peers and perhaps had a reputation for having a violent husband. She died of an unspecified illness, and was driven mad by her “life of commonplace sacrifices,” although it is unclear if her mental state is related to her death.

Eveline’s Mother Quotes in Eveline

The Eveline quotes below are all either spoken by Eveline’s Mother or refer to Eveline’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Paralysis and Inaction Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Eveline published in 1993.
Eveline Quotes

Still they seemed to have been rather happy then… That was a long time ago; she and her brothers and sisters were all grown up; her mother was dead. Tizzie Dunn was dead, too, and the Waters had gone back to England. Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home.

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Eveline’s Father, Eveline’s Mother, The Waters, the Dunns, and the Devines, Ernest, Harry
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Eveline is very familiar with death. As she lists the friends and family members who have died, along with those who have moved away, it becomes clear that these are essentially equivalent in Eveline’s mind. To Eveline, leaving Dublin is a form of death, and the way she discusses both death and moving away without emotion, and as though they are the same, highlights the idea of being dead while alive. She has felt “dead” her whole life since she has been trapped in uninspiring Dublin and a constricting family situation, and so the idea of actual physical death does not provoke a lot of emotions from her. She sums death up coolly, reducing it to “Everything changes.” Her emotionless attitude about death serves to highlight the idea that she is, in a sense, already dead.

The fact that other families and individuals have moved away also emphasizes that Eveline’s desire to escape is not unique; others have also felt compelled to leave Dublin. Further, it is no coincidence that Eveline’s neighbors are named the Waters. This deliberate name choice echoes the symbolism of the sea. The fact that the Waters family has gone back to England symbolizes that they are different, they are not from Dublin, and now they are back in an unknown country. Now that the Waters family has left for England, they are just as unknown and distant to Eveline as the sea.

It’s also worth noting that though a third-person narrator is speaking here, they often inhabit Eveline’s thoughts and perspective. This is emblematic of Joyce’s style of “free indirect discourse.”

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Miss Gavan would be glad. She had always had an edge on her, especially whenever there were people listening…But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that. Then she would be married – she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been.

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Eveline’s Mother, Miss Gavan
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Eveline implies that her mother was not respected while she was alive, and as a result, Eveline is not respected either. While never directly stated, it is implied that perhaps this is because Eveline’s mother is a known victim of her husband’s violence. The other neighborhood kids seem to fear Eveline’s father, so perhaps the other Dublin residents are aware of his violent tendencies as well. This relates to Eveline’s role as a woman in society, because she is unable to escape her father’s reputation without the help of another man and also by leaving the country. If she stays in Dublin, she knows that she is doomed to have her mother’s reputation and lack of respect follow her, at least while she is unmarried.

Additionally, Eveline naively assumes that she will have more respect in Argentina. She never says why she believes this, but she asserts it like a fact, thus supporting her glorification of escape and the exotic. She believes that all of her problems will disappear once she has left Dublin.

Even now, though she was over nineteen, she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence. She knew it was that that had given her the palpitations. When they were growing up he had never gone for her, like he used to go for Harry and Ernest, because she was a girl; but latterly he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake.

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Eveline’s Father, Eveline’s Mother, Ernest, Harry
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Eveline’s normalization of her father’s violence comes from her internalized belief that it is her role as a daughter and woman to sacrifice herself for the men in her life. She knows that the heart palpitations she is experiencing are caused by her father, and that staying in Dublin with him has physically harmed her, and yet she is still so driven by her sense of duty that she is not even prioritizing her own health. All of her siblings, the only two mentioned being her brothers, have left and do not seem to be concerned about caring for her father and the house. This is because society has told them to pursue their own interests and careers, and to let the women stay behind to care for their father.

Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could.

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Eveline’s Mother
Related Symbols: Dust
Page Number: 32 – 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Eveline is still trying to make a decision, but she seems to be comforted by the familiarity of both the scent of dusty cretonne (heavy fabric used for upholstery) and the sound of the street organ. She likes the familiarity of both of these things, even though they are both associated with death. Dust represents death, but since Eveline is familiar with death both in its literal and figurative forms, she finds it comforting. Similarly, the street organ reminds Eveline of the night her mother died (as she heard one playing then), but she also knows the tune, and she potentially sees this coincidence as a sign that she should stay and keep her promise to her mother. Eveline’s sense of duty to keep her promise to her mother is a reflection of her Catholic values and upbringing. The idea of breaking a promise is so blasphemous that she would sacrifice her own freedom and happiness in order to keep her promise.

As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on the very quick of her being – that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her mother’s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence: –Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Eveline’s Mother
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Eveline’s memory of her mother’s sacrifices and resulting demise causes her to think more about her decision to run away with Frank. She knows she does not want to end up like her mother, who seems to have been driven to madness by her life of endless sacrifice. Her repetition of the phrase “Derevaun Seraun,” which is either nonsense or bears some meaning along the lines of “the end of song is raving madness,” implies that her mother is somewhat aware of her own insanity. Eveline sees death in both her mother’s life of “commonplace sacrifices” and in her actual death. Her mother’s sacrifices result from the role of women in society and the expectation that they do whatever it takes to care for their spouses and families.

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Eveline’s Mother Character Timeline in Eveline

The timeline below shows where the character Eveline’s Mother appears in Eveline. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Eveline
Paralysis and Inaction Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
The Many Forms of Death Theme Icon
...realizing that she was happier back then when her father was less violent and her mother was still alive. But now she and her siblings are all grown up, and her... (full context)
Women and Society Theme Icon
The Many Forms of Death Theme Icon
Catholic Values and Confinement Theme Icon
...the tune, and it reminds her of the street organ that was playing on her mother’s last night before she died (of an unspecified illness). Eveline also remembers the promise she... (full context)
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
The Many Forms of Death Theme Icon
Eveline feels pity for her mother, who seems to have spent her life making sacrifices for Eveline’s father and family, only... (full context)