This story is written by James Joyce.
This story is about a young lady named Eveline. She belongs to a poor family in which there is regular squabble over money because the family is not earning enough to even survive decently. Her father is not of adoring kind and is in habit of rebuking and thrashing his children. By virtue of being a girl, Eveline never had to face any kind physical violence from her father.
Her mother is no more. She had promised to her dying mother that she would take care of the family after the mother’s demise.
Like any other young lady, Eveline too wants to have a married and happy life. A man named Frank comes in her life. She is planning to leave her paternal home and to elope with Frank. Marriage with Frank seems to be the proverbial ticket to a better life in the distant lands of Buenos Aires. But when she is about to board the ship to go along with Frank, she backtracks and decides to return to her paternal home so that she could fulfill the promise she made to her mother.
Stop and Think
Question 1: Why did Eveline review all the familiar objects at home?
Answer: Eveline is planning to leave her home forever, and to elope with Frank. She has many fond and not so fond memories associated with the house where she has grown up. So, she is reviewing all the familiar objects at home, before leaving the home forever.
Question 2: Where was Eveline planning to go?
Answer: Eveline is planning to go to Buenos Aires, along with her lover Frank.
Question 3: Who was Frank? Why did Eveline’s father quarrel with him?
Answer: Frank was a sailor. Eveline’s father did not think positively about sailors. So, Eveline’s father quarreled with Frank.
Question 4: What significance does Eveline find in the organ-player’s appearance on the day she had decided to leave?
Answer: The organ player played a tune of melancholy. It reminded Eveline of the day her mother died. On that day, an organ player was called to play some music which may be appropriate for a family waiting for a near one to breathe last.
Understanding the Text
Question 1: Name the two characters in this story with whom Eveline liked and loved, and two she did not. What were the reasons for her feelings towards them?
Answer: Eveline loved her mother and brother Harry. Her mother made every effort to keep the family a closely knit one, in spite of her father’s negative traits. Eveline loved Harry because Harry sent whatever money he could to help the run the household.
Eveline hated her father because her father never took good care of the family and instead created negative vibes in the home. Eveline also hated Miss Gavan (her boss in the Store where she worked) because Miss Gavan always criticized Eveline during work.
Question 2: Describe the conflict of emotions felt by Eveline on the day she had decided to elope with Frank.
Answer: Eveline is planning to elope in the hope of a happy married life. Apparently, a bright future is awaiting her where there will be no whiff of the routine squabble with her father and the drudgery of working at the Stores.
But she is clinging to the fond memories associated with the house where she had grown up. She also remembers the promise she made to her dying mother that she would take care of the family.
On the one hand, there is a prospect of a future of blissful married life but on the other, her responsibilities towards her ageing father is drawing at some cord which is pulling her to stay back.
Question 3: Why do you think Eveline let go of the opportunity to escape?
Answer: There is a proverb which says that a known devil is better than an unknown saint. People often prefer the familiar in spite of all the negativities associated with the familiar, and avoid the risks of unfamiliar terrain. I think this mindset may have prevented her from escaping her current life.
Question 4: What are the signs of Eveline’s indecision that we see as the hour of her departure with Frank neared?
Answer: When she is about to leave for the harbor, she is thinking about her house. She is thinking about her past, about her mother, about the promise she made to her mother. She is also thinking about her father who is now becoming frail due to ageing. These are the signs of Eveline’s indecision.
Talking About the Text
Question 1: Deciding between filial duty and the right to personal happiness is problematic. Discuss.
Answer:: This can be really difficult to decide between filial duty and the right to personal happiness. It is said that man is a social animal. We also know that family is the unit of society, so filial responsibilities have their own importance. Personal happiness is also important but personal happiness sans family and society is worthless. So, when it comes to choosing between the two it is often seen that a sensible person decides in favour of the family. But the decision can be tough.
Question 2: Share with your partner any instance of your personal experience where you, or somebody you know, had to make a difficult choice.
Answer: Once I had to opt between going to a hill station with my classmates and going to a cousin’s marriage with my family. An outing with my classmates meant a trip full of pleasure without the watchful eyes of parents. Attending a cousin’s marriage meant a chance of reunion with family members with whom we seldom get time to meet. Finally, I gave in to my parents’ wishes and went to attend the marriage.
Question 1: The description in this story has symbolic touches. What do you think the ‘window’, the ‘gathering dusk’, the ‘dusty cretonne and its odour’ symbolize?
Answer: She is sitting in her house and recalling her past memories. All these years she had suffered the drudgery of running the household in presence of an unsupportive father. Gathering dusk and dusty cretonne and its odour symbolize all the pains she had gone through. Dusk, i.e. evening is generally used in the negative sense as it signifies the end of the day. Dusty cretonne means a heavy curtain which is full of dust. So, these symbols signify all the pains Eveline had went through.
Window is often used as a symbol which allows light to come in, the ray of opportunity. For Eveline, a prospect of life with Frank is a ray of opportunity.
Question 2: Note how the narrative proceeds through the consciousness of Eveline.
Answer: The whole story is about the thoughts going through Eveline’s mind. So, we can safely say that the narrative proceeds through the consciousness of Eveline.
Question 3: In the last section of the story, notice these expressions. What are the emotions that these images evoke?
(a) A bell clanged upon her heart.
Answer: With a heavy heart
(b) All the seas of the world tumbled upon her heart.
Answer: Same as above
(c) Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy.
(d) She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal.
Answer: At one’s wits end
Question 4: Do you think the author indicates his judgement of Eveline in the story?
Answer: The author has given equal weight to both the aspects, i.e. the prospective life with Frank and Eveline’s feelings towards her filial responsibilities. The story ends with Eveline opting to stay with the family. Nowhere in the story has the author appeared to be judgmental whether Eveline took a right decision or not.