As in many of the other stories in Dubliners, the protagonist of “Eveline” has a desire to escape from the drab, brown Dublin life. But unlike the narrator in “Araby,” for example, Eveline has an actual plan to escape to Argentina. She also has an opportunity to gain respect through marriage and also by distancing herself from the bad reputation her family seems to have, escaping the limitations of her current social status. Eveline fantasizes about her escape and seems to think it will solve all of her problems: her financial disputes with her father, the lack of respect her coworkers show her, and her general discontentment with Dublin life. However, when it comes time for Eveline to actually board the boat with Frank, she decides against her escape. This implies that perhaps the idea of an escape was satisfying in itself, but the actual act of escaping is too scary. Eveline liked having the opportunity for an escape, and it temporarily soothed her anxiety about the lack of respect she receives from her boss and her fear of being treated like her mother. It is possible that all she really desired was some kind of reassurance in the form of another potential path.
Eveline takes interest in Frank not only because he is offering her an escape, but also because she finds him exotic. He tells her stories about faraway places and people and exposes her to music and culture that she has never before experienced. Frank takes her to see the play “The Bohemian Girl,” which although the music is written by an Irish composer, deals with “gypsies” in Austria and other Eastern European countries. For Eveline, anything outside of Dublin most likely seems exotic, since she seems to have lived on the same quiet street, surrounded by the same people, her whole life. Even the fact that Frank is a sailor is a bit exotic, at least to the extent that because of this Eveline’s father forbids her from seeing him. She is also thrilled to sit in an “unaccustomed” part of the theater, which suggests that Frank is of a higher status than Eveline and was able to buy more expensive seats. At one point Eveline reflects on the lack of respect she receives in Dublin and imagines that in Argentina, “a distant unknown country,” it will not “be like that.” Eveline reveals her ignorance with this somewhat contradictory thought. She is assuming it will not “be like that” but she also admits that she is going to make a new home in an unknown country, and does not seem to have any basis for the assertion that she will have more respect in Argentina.
Similar to Joyce’s other protagonists in Dubliners, Eveline is searching for an escape. However, at the end of the story it becomes clear that Eveline was not as serious about finding a physical escape as she initially appeared. Additionally, she seems to realize that an escape does not necessarily promise a happy ending and she could easily end up with a violent husband, just like her mother did. Joyce seems to see all Dubliners as trapped by society. The opportunities for escape are scarce, so instead many of his characters choose to fantasize about the exotic and satisfy themselves with more of a mental escape.
Escapism and the Exotic ThemeTracker
Escapism and the Exotic Quotes in Eveline
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.
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.
He took her to see The Bohemian Girl and she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the theatre with him…People knew that they were courting and, when he sang about the lass that loves a sailor, she always felt pleasantly confused…First of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like him. He had tales of distant countries.
She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness.
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.