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James Joyce’s Brief Biography
Read the short biography of Joyce and note down the significance of the following terms for
his life and works:
Ireland • Dublin • Catholicism • Epiphany
James Joyce (1882-1941) Born in Dublin in 1882 to a Catholic family, Joyce studied philosophy
and languages at University College, Dublin. Soon after his graduation, he left Dublin and spent
almost all the rest of his life abroad – in Italy, Switzerland and France. His works include The
Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922). Ireland, in
particular Dublin and its inhabitants, the political tensions with England, and Catholicism are
recurrent themes in much of Joyce’s work even if he hardly spent any of his adult life in Dublin
and rejected the Catholic religion with which he had been brought up. Joyce is considered
among the most influential writers of the twentieth century, with his innovative literary
techniques such as interior monologue, use of epiphanies and linguistic experimentation.

Joyce’s Key Literary Terms

For Joyce, an epiphany is a key symbolic
moment, triggered by some banal event,
object or gesture, when a character has a
deep understanding of himself and his
surroundings. Interior monologue or
Stream of Consciousness is a literary
device used to portray a character’s
thoughts and emotions.

Dubliners (1914)


Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce, first published in
1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and
around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.
The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak and a search for a
national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland
was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. They centre on Joyce's idea of an
epiphany: a moment where a character experiences a life-changing self-understanding
or illumination
One of the stories in Dubliners is called Eveline, a young woman, who is about to leave
her home.
Pre-Reading Discussion

What are your expectations from the future?
Think about leaving your homeland and family. Will it be easy or difficult?
Imagine you had to leave the home of your childhood or your current home.
Make a list with 3 items that you would miss most. Can you also think of
something/someone that you’d be glad to get rid of?
Discuss why people are afraid of leaving the things, people, and places with
whom they are safe?
Should children sacrifice themselves to look after their parents and siblings?

SHE sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against
the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired.
Few people passed. The man out of the last house passed on his way home; she heard his
footsteps clacking along the concrete pavement and afterwards crunching on the 1.cinder path
before the new red houses. One time there used to be a field there in which they used to play
every evening with other people’s children. Then a man from Belfast bought the field and built
houses in it — not like their little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining roofs. The
children of the avenue used to play together in that field — the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns,
little Keogh the 2.cripple, she and her brothers and sisters. Ernest, however, never played: he
was too grown up. Her father used often to hunt them in out of the field with his blackthorn
stick; but usually little Keogh used to keep 3.nix and call out when he saw her father coming.
Still they seemed to have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then; and besides,
her mother was alive. 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.
Home! She looked round the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted
once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from. Perhaps she
would never see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being
divided. 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 4.harmonium beside the coloured
print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. He had been a school friend of
her father. Whenever he showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a
casual word:
“He is in Melbourne now.”
She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise? She tried to weigh each
side of the question. In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had
known all her life about her. O course she had to work hard, both in the house and at business.
What would they say of her in the Stores when they found out that she had run away with a
fellow? Say she was a fool, perhaps; and her place would be filled up by advertisement. Miss
Gavan would be glad. She had always 5.had an edge on her, especially whenever there were
people listening.
“Miss Hill, don’t you see these ladies are waiting?”
“Look lively, Miss Hill, please.”
She would not cry many tears at leaving the Stores.
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. 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 6.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. He
said she used to 7.squander the money, that she had no head, that he wasn’t going to give her
his hard-earned money to throw about the streets, and much more, for he was usually fairly bad
on Saturday night. In the end he would give her the money and ask her had she any intention of
buying Sunday’s dinner. Then she had to rush out as quickly as she could and do her marketing,
holding her black leather purse tightly in her hand as she elbowed her way through the crowds
and returning home late under her load of provisions. She had hard work to keep the house
together and to see that the two young children who had been left to her charge went to school

regularly and got their meals regularly. 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.
She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very kind, manly, openhearted. She was to go away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in
Buenos Ayres where he had a home waiting for her. How well she remembered the first time
she had seen him; he was lodging in a house on the main road where she used to visit. It seemed
a few weeks ago. He was standing at the gate, his peaked cap pushed back on his head and his
hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze. Then they had come to know each other. He used to
meet her outside the Stores every evening and see her home. He took her to see The Bohemian
Girl and she felt 8.elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the theatre with him. He was
awfully fond of music and sang a little. People knew that they were courting and, when he sang
about the lass that loves a sailor, she always felt pleasantly confused. He used to call her
Poppens out of fun. 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. He had started as a deck boy at a pound
a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada. He told her the names of the ships he
had been on and the names of the different services. He had sailed through the Straits of
Magellan and he told her stories of the terrible Patagonians. He had fallen on his feet in Buenos
Ayres, he said, and had come over to the old country just for a holiday. Of course, her father had
found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say to him.
“I know these sailor chaps,” he said.
One day he had quarrelled with Frank and after that she had to meet her lover secretly.
The evening deepened in the avenue. The white of two letters in her lap grew indistinct.
One was to Harry; the other was to her father. Ernest had been her favourite but she liked Harry
too. Her father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her. Sometimes he could be
very nice. Not long before, when she had been 9.laid up for a day, he had read her out a ghost
story and made toast for her at the fire. Another day, when their mother was alive, they had all
gone for a picnic to the Hill of Howth. She remembered her father putting on her mother’s
bonnet to make the children laugh.
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. She remembered the last night of her mother’s illness; she was again in the close dark
room at the other side of the hall and outside she heard a melancholy air of Italy. The organplayer had been ordered to go away and given sixpence. She remembered her father
10.strutting back into the sickroom saying:
“Damned Italians! coming over here!”
As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on the very quick of her
being — that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she
heard again her mother’s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:
“Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!”
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. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms.
He would save her.
She stood among the swaying crowd in the station at the North Wall. He held her hand and
she knew that he was speaking to her, saying something about the passage over and over again.
The station was full of soldiers with brown baggages. Through the wide doors of the sheds she
caught a glimpse of the black mass of the boat, lying in beside the quay wall, with illumined
11.portholes. She answered nothing. She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of
distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to show her what her duty was. The boat blew a long
mournful whistle into the mist. If she went, tomorrow 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? 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:
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would
drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.
No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy. Amid the seas she
sent a cry of anguish.
“Eveline! Evvy!”
He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but
he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes
gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.

1. cinder: small pebbles or stones

7. squander: waste/spend lavishly

2. cripple: disable person

8. elated: joyful/happy

3. nix: zero

9. lay up: to cause to be kept in bed or indoors

4. harmonium: small organ or piano

10. strut: boast,show off

5. have an edge on (someone): have a slight advantage or superiority on a person
6. squabble: quarrel/argue

11. Porthole: a round window on the side of a ship

After-Reading Questions
Describe Eveline’s home life.
How does she expect her new life to be different?
Is Buenos Aires a symbol?
List specific references to dust. What is the significance of the dust image?
What is Eveline’s father like?
What was her mother like? What happened to her? Does Eveline identify with her
mother in any way?
7. What does her father mean when he tells her, “I know these sailor chaps”? What
possible reasons would he have for trying to break up her romance with Frank?
8. What type of person is Frank? What does she actually know about him?
9. Has Eveline romanticized Frank in any way? Is her father’s objection of him perhaps
10. What is Eveline’s duty to her father? What promise did she make to her dying mother?
11. What is her duty to herself? Does she really believe she has “a right to happiness”?
Why or why not?
12. How does Eveline feel about leaving her brother, Harry?
13. In what ways is Eveline “like a helpless animal”? What is she afraid of?
14. Why do you think her eyes give Frank “no sign of love or farewell or recognition”?
15. Do you think Eveline made the right decision? Why or why not?
16. Do you find any epiphany in the story? Which one?

17. Eveline is a story of paralysis vs. escape. How are these two ideas represented in the
18. In pairs, look at the chart about the three time references found in the story and
complete them with the facts related to Eveline’s life:



In groups of three, adapt Eveline to the 21st century and rewrite a short theatre script
with the same characters in your own city. You can change as many details as you want.
Role play it in front of the class.

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