Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Eveline" by James Joyce  (1914, 5 pages, in The Dubliners)

A Story of Those Who Stayed
Irish Short Story Week Year Two
The Irish Diaspora

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 22.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or an e mail and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge. 
"Difficult and Obscure, I beg to differ"

I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass.-Bob Dylan

In 1914 WWI Started, in Detroit Henry Ford set the minimum wage at $5.00 a day.  The provisional government of the Ulster counties votes to keep Ulster "in trust for The British Empire.    Kokoro, one of the classics of Japanese literature, was published.   The overpower literary event was the publication of The Dubliners.  

During Irish Short Story Week I   a number of people posted on a short story by James Joyce.     I posted on his "The Sisters" on "The View from Mount Parnassus Day".    I also posted on Joyce's "The Dead" on Blooms Day June 17, 2010.     This week I want to post on a beautiful short work that goes deeply into the heart of a young woman, "Eveline".

Joyce's collection of short stories,  The Dubliners, is the most influential collection of short stories from the 20th century, and maybe ever.   

Whether or not Ulysses is the greatest novel of the 20th century is a matter of literary taste.     If you love it, if you hate it, or if you see it as  a work that can be read only by those with a serious literary education and lots of reading time,  it cannot be denied its place as the most influential novel of the 20th century (and so far nothing has come along in the 21th century to threaten this position).   His short story "The Dead" is on most greatest short stories of all times list.   I think those who do not wish to acknowledge his greatest as a short story writer do so either because they they think it is too much for one man to be both the most important novelist and the most important short story writer or because they are academics who for what ever reason do not wish to teach Joyce in their classes.   

"Eveline", told in the third person, is about a young woman longing to be free but afraid of leaving the only place she has ever known and trapped by feelings of obligation to her family.     She is also somehow trapped by the things in her life.
Her mother is now dead, her father needs to be controlled.   He drinks to much and he used to beat his two sons.       Eveline takes care of the house and fixes the meals.     She longs to get away.    She also works at a store for a harsh woman who cares nothing about her.   

Eveline has met a merchant marine.   My first impulse was to think Oh no she has fallen for a sailor in town for a few days.   There is a passage that seems to suggest that Eveline fears being beaten or worse by her  father now that she is nineteen and has no one to protect her.    Joyce's prose is beautiful and hauntingly sad.

" She would not be treated as her mother had been. 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. And no she had nobody to protect her. Ernest was dead and Harry, who was in the church decorating business, was nearly always down somewhere in the country. Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages -- seven shillings -- and Harry always sent up what he could but the trouble was to get any money from her father".

It seems the sailor, Frank, is a decent man.   He wants Eveline to marry him and set sail for Buenes Aires, Argentina where there is a house waiting for them.    The story is set in a time 1000s of people are leaving Ireland and Buenes Aires  was a very frequent destination for Irish emigrants.

I do not wish to tell more of the plot of this brief short story.   As the story closes it seems to me that Eveline has made a mistake but one we can all relate to.   

Joyce has compressed several lives into just a few pages but really he has compressed much of the history of Ireland.    You can almost feel the loneliness of 
Eveline in this story.

This story can easily be founded online.   All of the work of Joyce is now in the public domain.

 Mel u

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