Joyce clearly illustrates Eveline’s desire for freedom, but in the end she stays behind—partly because of her Catholic background and its religious teachings involving guilt, sacrifice, and promises. Eveline’s appreciation of the Catholic value of sacrifice becomes clear in her duties caring for her family. She seems to sacrifice a great deal of time and effort tending to their needs, and she is living “a hard life.” Eveline sees the sacrifices her mother made for her family, as well as the toll it took on her as her mother eventually became insane and died: “that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness.” It is this memory that causes Eveline to frantically call for an escape, and vow never to be in the same position as her mother. Yet eventually Eveline sacrifices her wish to leave Dublin for the sake of her family. As she acknowledges, this decision is only going to lead to further sacrifices, as in her mother’s case.
Eveline also feels strongly obligated to fulfill her promises, both those she made to her mother on her deathbed and her religious promises to God. She hears the street organ playing as she is contemplating her options, and immediately sees it as a sign—perhaps from God or just a coincidence—because it reminds her of the eve of her mother’s death, when there was also street organ music outside, and when she promised her mother that she would “keep the home together as long as she could.” Eveline also begins to question her decision to leave when she remembers the promises to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun and saint who introduced the idea of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These written promises are hanging on the wall, and as she notices them she starts to question whether or not leaving is the right thing to do.
Catholicism plays an important role in Eveline’s life, and generally speaking was the dominant religion in 20th-century Ireland. Eveline’s Catholic values play a large role in her inability to leave, and she ends up sacrificing herself for these values emphasized by her religion. Joyce is critiquing Catholicism and its emphasis on guilt, since ultimately Eveline’s guilt causes her to stay in Dublin with her abusive father.
Catholic Values and Confinement ThemeTracker
Catholic Values and Confinement Quotes in Eveline
And yet during all those years she had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hung on the wall above the broken harmonium beside the colored print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque.
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.
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.