James Joyce

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Eveline Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on James Joyce's Eveline. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of James Joyce

James Joyce grew up in Rathgar, a suburb of Dublin, and studied at University College, where he began to publish literary reviews, poems, and plays. After college, he moved to Paris where he briefly studied medicine. In 1903, just one year later, Joyce’s mother got sick and he moved back to Dublin to take care of her. After meeting his wife, the couple left Dublin and lived in a variety of countries including Yugoslavia and Italy, and later fled to Zurich during World War I. He only returned to Dublin four times, but many of his works remain heavily focused on the city, and on Ireland more generally. Joyce received guidance from the poet Ezra Pound, who helped him publish his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in 1916. This was two years after the publication of Dubliners, Joyce’s first book, which was a collection of fifteen short stories, including “Eveline.” These two books brought Joyce some fame as a Modernist writer, a fame that only increased after the publication of Ulysses (1922), which upon publication was hailed as both a masterpiece and banned in numerous countries for indecency. Joyce continued writing after Ulysses, producing the even more avant-garde Finnegans Wake in 1939. Joyce was always a heavy drinker, and he died in 1941 from complications after having surgery on a perforated ulcer.
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Historical Context of Eveline

“Eveline,” and all of the stories in Dubliners, take place during the rise of Irish Nationalism. At the time Ireland was under the control of Great Britain, and the Nationalist movement, also known as Irish Republicanism in its more radical form, rejected British control in favor of Irish independence. The majority of Irish nationalists were Catholic, however the movement was not supported by the Catholic Church, as many nationalists believed in the use of force and violent methods. The strong presence of Catholicism is important as it explains Eveline’s deep religious sentiments and continuous praying. Along with nationalism and the desire for independence from Great Britain came a resurgence of national pride that also inspired a cultural, linguistic, and political revival. Eveline also revolves heavily around the position of women in 20th Century Dublin. Eveline, like her female peers, does not have the power or independence to advance in society on her own, which is why she seeks help from male figures, in this case, God and Frank.

Other Books Related to Eveline

“Eveline” is part of Dubliners, Joyce’s first published collection of short stories that portrays the middle-class in early 20th Century Dublin. There are fifteen stories total, and “Eveline” is included as the fourth story in the collection. The characters in Joyce’s Dubliners stories all experience some kind of an epiphany, or a sudden and powerful realization about life or themselves (and this is not always a good thing). Many of the characters from Dubliners are also featured in Joyce’s later work, Ulysses. “Eveline” is also the first work by Joyce that is written from a female perspective. Some critics hypothesize that Joyce named the protagonist after Thomas Moore’s poem, “Eveline’s Bower.” The opera “The Bohemian Girl” also plays a significant role in both “Eveline” and another short story from Dubliners, “Clay.” There also seem to be many parallels with Virginia Woolf’s “The Voyage Out,” both in the plot, in which a young female protagonist also runs away to Buenos Ayres, and in Woolf’s style.
Key Facts about Eveline
  • Full Title: Eveline
  • When Written: Summer of 1904
  • Where Written: Unknown, but not Dublin. Somewhere in Croatia or Italy – Joyce moved around a lot during this period.
  • When Published: Originally published in the Irish Homestead on September 10th, 1904, later revised and published in Dubliners in 1914.
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short Fiction
  • Setting: 20th Century Dublin
  • Climax: Eveline contemplates running away to Argentina with her lover, Frank, but at the last minute she is paralyzed by fear and watches Frank board the ship without her
  • Point of View: Told in third-person limited (the narrator is separate from the protagonist but knows her thoughts), and Joyce employs the technique of “free indirect discourse”

Extra Credit for Eveline

Inspiration for “Eveline.” This is Joyce’s first story written from a female perspective, and so there is much speculation about who, if anyone, the character of Eveline is based. The story seems to parallel some of the events that happened with James’ sister, Margaret Joyce. In “Eveline,” Eveline makes promises to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, so Joyce’s use of the name “Margaret” could be a subtle link to his sister, Margaret. Like Eveline, Margaret Joyce also promised her dying mother that she would stay and take care of her younger siblings, and so sacrificed her plans to join a convent and stayed behind with her abusive father and siblings. Another connection to Margaret Joyce is that she went by the nickname “Poppie,” which is quite similar to Frank’s nickname for Eveline, “Poppens.” “Eveline” is also thought to be inspired by one of James Joyce’s neighbors from 17 North Richmond Street in Dublin, Eveline Thornton. Eveline Thornton fell in love with a sailor, but instead of running away, they ended up getting married and living together in Dublin.

Controversial Namesake. Some critics think Joyce got the name of his story from Thomas Moore’s poem “Eveleen’s Bower,” but it is also possible that Joyce got the name from a Victorian pornographic novel, “Eveline,” where the protagonist has sexual relations with her father. George Russell, who advised Joyce, apparently warned him of “shocking his readership,” so perhaps Joyce chose the name “Eveline” as a more subtle way of implying sexual abuse, rather than stating it outright. Additionally the fact that Eveline is going to Buenos Ayres could be a subtle reference to the popular expression “going to Buenos Ayres,” as a euphemism for a woman becoming a prostitute. So Joyce has perhaps hidden some implications that Eveline may not have the most pious past (whether that “impiousness” was the product of her own choice or forced upon her), regardless of her apparent religious devotion.