Study Guide

Dubliners Eveline

By James Joyce


  • Our tired narrator sits, looking out the window of her house as night falls on Dublin. 
  • Seeing the "new red houses" nearby, she thinks back to the field where she and her siblings and friends played before the new construction (Eveline.2). Ah, those were the days.
  • During all of this remembering, we learn a lot of Eveline's backstory. 
  • Her oldest brother was "too grown up" to play (Eveline.2), and one of her young friends used to keep watch for her father, who would chase them out of the field with the stick. All in all, the narrator remembers these days fondly because, since then, her mother has died and her father has become "bad." She's like, "Everything changes" (Eveline.2). 
  • In her case, everything changes pretty drastically. 
  • Without explaining just yet, Eveline reveals that "she was going to go away […] to leave her home" (Eveline.2). 
  • Eveline looks around the room where she's sitting, and thinks of the "familiar objects" she'll never see again (Eveline.3). 
  • It's not stuffed animals, though, that really make her think twice about leaving. It's a picture of a priest whose name she never learned. She recalls that her father would often say to guests that the priest "is in Melbourne now" (Eveline.4). (Melbourne's a city in Australia.)
  • Next, Eveline repeats herself: she has "consented to go away, to leave her home," but now she adds a question: "Was that wise?" (Eveline.5). She's going back and forth. At home, it's mostly comfortable, and her friends are around. But she hates her job, so we guess it's a tie so far.
  • Still thinking of pros and cons, she thinks to herself that in "a distant unknown country" she'll be respected because she'll be married (Eveline.9). 
  • This is the first time we learn two important facts: that a man is involved with her decision to leave home, and that her move is a pretty significant one, to another country entirely.
  • Another reason she'll be glad to go, she thinks, is that she won't have to worry about what she calls "her father's violence" (Eveline.9). 
  • Without her siblings around, since the oldest is dead and the next oldest is away for work, she fears that her father will beat her just like he beat them. Yikes.
  • This just took a turn for the serious.
  • We learn that another problem with her father involved money. Not only did Eveline give all her hard earned pay to her father, she had to beg him to get the money back to buy groceries for the family, which also includes two children she's responsible for. (We don't know whose children they are, only that Eveline has to feed them and get them to school.) 
  • So why wouldn't she leave? This is a no brainer.
  • Oh, wait. Maybe not: "It was hard work—a hard life—but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life" (Eveline.9). 
  • Before we can decide, Eveline, we're going to need to know a little about this man who's going to take you to "Buenos Ayres," (a city in Argentina that we usually spell "Buenos Aires") (Eveline.10). 
  • Here's the scoop: Eveline met Frank at a "lodging house" she used to visit. (Kind of like meeting at a party.) Frank takes things real slow, and he's all about the benjamins. At first, he just walks her home from work and takes her to the theatre, and Eveline's mostly just "excited" for the attention. But then, pretty quickly she "came to like him" (Eveline.10). 
  • Oh yeah, Frank is a sailor, and he says he owns a house in "Buenos Ayres," and that he's back in Ireland for a little vacay.
  • Everything was fine until her father found out about Frank and said that sailors were no good. And if you know anything about sailors, you can see why he's worried, right? They can always just get on a ship and meet someone else.
  • So Frank and Eveline's father "quarreled," and after that they had to be secret lovers (Eveline.12). 
  • All this time, Eveline has been holding goodbye letters to her brother Harry and to her father in her lap. She's still sitting at the window and starts to feel more sympathy for her father. After all, this is the same man who read her ghost stories when she was sick, and took the fam on day trips when they were kids. 
  • A street musician plays a song outside her window, and it happens to be the same song that was being played outside the house on the night her mother died.
  • Her father had sent away the musician and returned saying, "Damned Italians! coming over here!" (Eveline.15). It's a really intense memory, and a little racist, too.
  • Eveline thinks about her mother's "pitiful" life "of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness." And then there's the disturbing nonsense her mother screamed in her final illness, "Deveraun Seraun! Deveraun Seraun!" (Eveline.17). Needless to say, it was not your everyday peaceful death. 
  • At this moment, Eveline finally stands up and decides that "she must escape!" Frank, she says, "would save her" (Eveline.18). Here's hoping.
  • The story breaks off here, and cuts to right to "the station at the North Wall" (Eveline.19) where the ship prepares to sail. 
  • Picture this: Frank and Eveline are holding hands and waiting for the ship. She's in "distress," and spends the whole time praying for guidance, barely listening to Frank: "If she went, to-morrow she would be on the sea with Frank, steaming towards Buenos Ayres. Their passage had been booked. Could she still draw back after all he had done for her?" (Eveline.19). 
  • She's right there, and still hasn't decided. Sheesh.
  • Eveline says that "a bell clanged upon her heart" as Frank grabs her hand and shouts "Come!" But…she doesn't. Come, that is. (Eveline.21)
  • Eveline hangs on to the rails as Frank repeats, "Come!" and still, she won't budge (Eveline.23). 
  • Finally, Eveline screams "a cry of anguish" to the sea as Frank, still calling her, gets pushed into the boat. 
  • "She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition" (Eveline.24, 26). And that's Eveline's decision.