James Joyce

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Water Symbol Icon

Water, specifically the sea, represents the unknown, and Joyce uses it to illustrate Eveline’s fear of the unknown. At the end of the story, when Eveline is filled with anguish and rendered immobile by the difficulty of her decision, she feels “all the seas of the world tumble[d] about her heart.” The fact that her heart comes back into the story is significant since she reveals that she has a health issue of palpitations. This image implies that the very thought of leaving Dublin and entering the unknown “seas” is causing her emotional distress, and perhaps heart palpitations as well. She feels that Frank is “drawing her into” the seas and that eventually “he would drown her.” She is not ready for the unknown, and she feels like Frank is pressuring her. The sea also represents freedom, which is one and the same as the unknown to Eveline. She is afraid of both freedom and the unknown.

Water Quotes in Eveline

The Eveline quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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 Symbols: Water
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Could she still draw back after all he had done for her? Her distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips in silent fervent prayer. A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand: –Come! All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.

Related Characters: Eveline Hill, Frank
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 33 – 34
Explanation and Analysis:
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Water Symbol Timeline in Eveline

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in Eveline. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Paralysis and Inaction Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
The Many Forms of Death Theme Icon
Catholic Values and Confinement Theme Icon
...ship. She feels the pressure from Frank, as if he is leading her into the sea, and she suddenly feels he will “drown her.” She clutches the iron railing, and cries... (full context)