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We find the first instance of such paralysis in �Eveline,� a story about a young

woman�s failure to take action. The story begins with the eponymous heroine sitting
by the window and contemplating her promise to elope with Frank, a young sailor who
has been courting her for some time. He has offered her the chance of a better life
in Buenos Aires, away from Dublin, where she suffers under the yoke of her drunken,
aggressive father and lives confined within a dusty house without even a life of
her own, let alone a chance for happiness. Nonetheless, Eveline, towards the end of
the story, is paralysed and unable to go on with Frank as planned. Since the causes
behind the frustration of her attempted escape can be traced back to the incidents
in the previous stories, as said earlier, if we study the particulars of Eveline�s
disposition and situation bearing in mind those incidents, we can see that,
contrary to her purported consent, Eveline�s �decision� regarding her leaving with
Frank had already been made for her, and, long before she sat by the window to
contemplate her life and possible future, her elopement was inevitably to be
frustrated by her immobility and lack of conscious will (a conclusion towards which
I am advancing and which I examine in close textual analysis in the latter part of
the essay). Moreover, when the protagonist�s failed action is thus analysed with
reference to the previous section, �Eveline� gains more importance in the scheme of
the book. It becomes a sort of bridge between the first part of the book, wherein
we witness the genesis of the paralysis that is spreading, and the remainder of the
stories, in which we continually find characters already paralysed and overcome by
past experiences. Therefore, even though �Eveline� is one step in the moral decline
that the collection presents, it is rather a pivotal step as it indicates many
important shifts in the series.

Before moving on to the discussion of these shifts, let us go back to look at some
elements in the childhood stories that are most relevant to the makeup of Eveline.

In �The Sisters,� the first short story in Dubliners, the little boy had some faith
in and looked up to the old priest, but, indirectly through the priest�s spiritual
and physical paralysis and ultimately death, the boy is exposed to corruption and
decay rather than knowledge and ambition; religion proves helpless, if not
detrimental, and knowledge rotten. In the paralysis of the old priest, the boy
encounters the ineffectiveness of the church to grant a healthy life. In the
euphemistic language of Old Cotter and the evasions of the two sisters, the boy
�learns at least that in this society some things must not be spoken� (Johnson
xxx). What adds to the shock of the little boy is the nature of that elliptical
language itself; Marilyn French says: �it is the opacity and elliptical quality
more than anything that create the impression of something shocking or insidious.
But if we, the readers, are bewildered and fascinated, how much so is the boy, who
is young and living through this� (446). The mysterious darkness of the gaps that
the boy falls prey to mars him and confuses his concepts of faith, religion, and
sin, and as French suggests, we move on to the following stories bearing in mind
this injury and confusion just as the boy will move on in his life bearing them too

The boy in the second short story, �An Encounter,� meets yet further frustration
and hurt. He has acquired the harmed consciousness of the previous boy, and his
experience builds on the former one. Starting with hopeful desire for meaningful
adventure, the boy seeks �to break out the weariness of school-life for one day at
least.� The boy believes that real adventure �must be sought abroad,� and so he
plans to go to the Pigeon House (D 31). However, the boy not only fails to reach
his desired destination, but also encounters the �queer old josser� (D 37). The
religious undertones add to the issues of the earlier story. Anderson tells us that
�even in �An Encounter� the �josser� is pidgin English for God, as the Pigeon House
is Biblical and traditional English for the Holy Ghost� (8). This time, the boy is
already suspicious of the old man partly because his greenish-black suit links him
with the priest of the first story (French 449). The boy even refuses to look at
what the man does when his friend Murphy calls to him, as if in knowing recognition
of the damage that such a look would induce. Resignation pervades as the boy
realises that freedom of the mundane and the corrupt is not an option. The boy�s
pilgrimage is abhorrently adulterated, and he learns the sterility of hope.
Defeated, he turns back to what he �despised� leaving his futile search for
meaningful experience (D 38). The impossibility of escape imbued in his young mind
is sure to have crippling effects in the future.

Finally, the boy in �Araby,� who believes himself to be in love with his friend�s
sister, is slightly more aware that his surroundings are �hostile to romance,� but
he still wishes to protect his love and bear it like �a chalice safely through a
throng of foes� (D 40, 41). Little did he know that his clich�d outbursts of young
love were to be stifled, never amounting to anything more than vanity, anguish, and
anger. Only when faced with the hollow silence of the bazaar did he realise the
futility of his expedition and the vanity of his �love�. Taking into account the
erotic insinuations hinting at the girl�s petticoat, her fingers that played on his
body like a harp, etc., we begin to suspect that the boy might have mistaken erotic
fantasies for love, which may explain his idealisation and maudlin romanticism as
over-compensation to ease his guilt, thus leading to a repression of natural
desires and utter ignorance of what love is. The boy�s imagination, moreover, may
have taken a blow when his orientalist fancies about the bazaar are ousted by the
dreariness and the lifelessness that he felt in the hall, which reminded him of a
church, thus contaminating even the possibility of the exotic or the new with the
failures of religion that he learnt earlier.

In each of these stories, a little boy, armed with ambitious merits in the
beginning, is traumatised and stripped of all his aspirations. Such childhood can
only lead to the wasted adolescence exhibited in �Eveline. Brewster Ghiselin notes:

In the first three stories, in which the protagonists are presumably innocent, the
theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, in the conventional order, are
successively displayed in abeyance and finally in defeat.

In the fourth story, the main character, Eveline, lacking the strength of faith,
hope, and love, wavers in an effort to find a new life and, failing in the cardinal
virtue of fortitude, remains in Dublin short of her goal and weakened in her
spiritual powers and defences against evil. (81)

She falls short of her goal indeed, but, as I mentioned earlier, she had no chance
of ever achieving her goal. The characters of adolescence �are already so injured
by their experience with society that voluntary choice is almost impossible for
them� (Walzl 224). The accumulation of past experience paralyses Eveline and leads
her into self-delusion.

This last point ties in well with the aforementioned shifts that we begin to
exhibit in �Eveline� and, to a lesser extent, in the other stories of adolescence.
First of all, while all three stories of childhood share an unnamed protagonist
(who is the little boy himself), Eveline is identified by a name. The anonymity of
the little boy in each of the childhood stories seems to be implicating the idea
that the child has yet to develop an identity of his own. He is still
impressionable and too young to have his identity crystallised. What he is or may
be is still susceptible to all that is around him. On the other hand, Eveline,
whose spirit had been permeated by the shattering impressions she went through in
her childhood, is now old enough to be recognized as having a separate identity,
one which is no longer susceptible to anything but the paralysis of past injury,
which will determine her fate.

This brings us to the second shift. �The Sisters� is named after the two women
whose conversation will reveal to the boy the decay of what he held with
admiration; their conversation was the last moment of his discovery and therefore
disillusionment. �An Encounter� is named after the incident which will destroy the
boy�s sense of hope; in his encounter with the old man, his attempted escape is
overthrown. �Araby� is named after the prosaic bazaar where the boy will suffer the
painful emptiness of his feelings and escapades. The title of each story refers to
the paralysing force that will trounce the boy. �Eveline� is named after Eveline
herself. Does this imply that, as we leave childhood, the problem is no longer only
the environment but also the individual? What stops Eveline from leaving with Frank
is not a blunt incident as was the case with the boys� frustration. What stops her
is her internal fears, inherent paralysis, and marred spirit.

The third shift is in the narrative point of view; �Eveline� is the first story in
the series that uses a third-person narrator, which will stay until the end of the
volume. The first three stories shared a first-person narrator, who was the little
boy himself, which provided some form, however slight, of identification with the
protagonist. The reader follows the boy on his expeditions, getting shocked when he
is shocked, feeling the incomprehensibility he feels, and experiencing the painful
epiphany he experiences. In �Eveline,� our identification begins to fade. The
narrator shows us Eveline conquered by her passivity and deluded by her clich�s and
illusions, and we are no more shocked by the outcome. What Fargnoli says of Joyce�s
technique in this regard seems to be fitting here: �the reader has exposure to both
a detached and a highly subjective sense of events. The effect of this bifurcated
technique is to play off any sympathy one might feel for the main character�s
growing dissatisfaction against an awareness of the banal, conventional nature of
his life� (61). Even though this is true of all the stories in the collection, it
starts to be accentuated here. �At the same time that she [Eveline] tells us about
the trials of her life, the narrative pulls back to show the flaws that inhibit her
observations� (Fargnoli 53). This gives us the chance to see more than what Eveline
sees, and with our earlier insight into the episodes that led to the makeup of her
consciousness, we can �read in the annals of frustration� with fair certainty that
she will be �arrested in mid-air� (Levin 38).

This can be observed, textually, from the very first line in the story and all
throughout Eveline�s thoughts and actions, or lack thereof.

The story opens at dusk, signalling the perished light. Actually, �the evening
invade[s] the avenue� (D 46) (emphasis added): Eveline is already defeated by the
invasion of the creeping darkness, and �she was tired.� She is looking out the dim
window, smelling the �dusty cretonne,� and hearing the �clacking� and �crunching�
of footsteps; most of her senses are engaged unpleasantly in distraction. Although
she is supposed to be thinking about her decision for the future, she falls into
passive reminiscence about her past, wherein we learn many significant things. Her
playfield was robbed from her by the man from Belfast, thus inhibiting her childish
play; her father was of an aggressive nature that she had to run away from his
violence, and here we see again the harm done to children by the older and the
corrupted; and her brother Ernest was �too grown up� to play anymore, with the
possible implication that he had underwent the blows of despair and now was beyond
salvation, and therefore projecting Eveline�s own destiny. �They seemed to have
been rather happy then� (emphasis added): this statement cannot be more lacking in
confidence, speaking volumes of self-delusive justification. It is an early
anticipation of the fiasco of her escape. As soon as she remembers that she is
going to leave, she recoils in panic, �Home!� and turns back again to the past. She
thinks about the �familiar objects� in the room and contemplates the most mundane
of activities that have occupied her time week after week, dusting and �wondering
where on earth all the dust came from.� (D 47) Is she deliberately, though maybe
unconsciously, distracting herself with these nostalgic trifles?

Even though she �had never dreamed of being divided� from the objects in the room,
she does not know, nor cares to know, the name of the priest in the photo. Just as
the little boy refused to look at the deed of the old man because of his
association with the decayed priest of �The Sisters,� she, too, has learned that
lesson well and hence shuns any recognition of this priest, whose �yellowing
photograph� links him with the yellow rotten teeth of the former priest. Next to
the photograph, beside the harmonium which is �broken,� there is the �coloured
print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque.� The irony here is
abundant, and this print becomes little more than an ornament. The hope in the
memory and the story of this saint is relegated to another failure. The promises
have all failed to be delivered: Eveline does not have graces necessary for life,
does not enjoy any peace at home, has no consolation in her ordeal, is bereft of
any assured refuge, etc3. Understandably, Eveline does not agonise over this irony,
because it is taken for granted now that this saintly figure, indeed any saintly
figure, is useless in confronting the drabness all around; religion proved useless,
perhaps perilous, long ago, and her faith has been crushed.

While she �weigh[s] each side of the question,� we notice the absence of the three
virtues� faith, hope, and love�in her reasoning, and begin to see that the
instigator for her desired escape is rather material gain. We also see that she
appreciates the �shelter and food� that she has at home, which is important to note
for two reasons. First, her life at home is deficient in everything other than
providing her with a shelter and hard-earned food, yet she feels content with those
as if she is indeed a �helpless animal� that only needs a place to live and some
food to keep itself alive. Second, on another level, the lesson of the boy in �An
Encounter,� who sought more than he had but was met with danger and harm, is now so
ingrained in her psyche that the threat of losing even these very basic necessities
for life forces her to view them as an advantage to be treasured. Johnson asks
whether we should �understand it [Evelin�s paralysis] as resulting from her having
learned too well this society�s imprecations, its restrictions on even expressing,
let alone acting one, desire?� (xxv).

Then we are given a glimpse into her trials at her dull job with the unpleasant
Miss Gavan and at home with her father, who not only takes all her wages but also
has her beg to get back just enough to buy food for the house. She is constantly
met with sarcastic, insulting remarks. She has to �elbow[] her way through the
crowds� and carry the �loads of provision� and has to take care of the children. As
we can see, she is a non-entity suffering under �the paralytic subservience . . .
to family . . .� (Anderson 52). Yet, despite all that, �now that she was about to
leave� this life, �she did not find it a wholly undesirable life� (D 47) (emphasis
added); what is not undesirable, to say the least, about it? It seems that the
prospect of �explor[ing] another life with Frank� petrifies her because she knows
that escape is fraught with terrors and that to hope is to put oneself at peril.
This becomes clearer later when, as Frank calls to her to �Come!,� she feels that
�[a]ll the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them:
he would drown her.� (D 51)

In her reveries about Frank, she mentions nothing related to love probably because
she knows little about love and is certain of the vanity and condemnation of
genuine feelings in the paralytic Dublin after the painful episode of �Araby.�
However, she makes up for that in her descriptions of Frank which are �saturated
with the well-worn clich�s of romance fiction,� reminding us of the idealised
clich�s we saw in �Araby� (Johnson xxv). Frank appears in her musings to be an
idealised, romanticised image of a man; �kind,� �manly,� and �open-hearted,� he
stood with �his peaked cap pushed back on his head and his hair tumbled forward
over a face of bronze.� (D 49) Like a modern Othello, Frank �woos� Eveline and
tells her tales of �past experience,� �geographical wonders,� and �the strange
people� he met (Taube 152-3). However, Frank�s tales differ from those of Othello
in their possible, if not probable, falsehood, in that they �come straight away
from the pages of such [romance] fiction, the Sailor who loves this lass will sweep
her away from dreary Dublin and brutal father to exotic Buenos Aires where they
will be married� (Johnson xxv).
When her attention is drawn once more to the letters in her hand, reminding her of
her �decision�, the pattern repeats, and she falls back again into thinking about
the past, only kindlier this time. She searches for the two moments when her father
�could be very nice,� when he read �ghost stories� to her while she was sick, and
when they went to a picnic long ago. The fact that she remembered the two incidents
proves the scarcity of such moments, but they seem to be enough for her. So far,
besides her illusions, we have seen nothing that would suggest her determination to
go with Frank; all that we have seen indicate the opposite, strengthening our
conviction in her want of conscious will.

After she remembers her promise to her mother �to keep the home together,�
strangely, the memory of her dying mother lays �its spell on the very quick of her
being.� (D 50) For the first time she seems to be thinking seriously about �Escape!
� from that �life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness.� (D 50) But
this momentary excitement is not to last long because the Frank who �would save
her� will soon turn into the Frank who �would drown her.� At the last moment, when
she is to board the boat but still is hesitating on the deck, she prays to God for
direction, but her �silent fervent prayer� is as hollow yet as constraining in
effect as the �bell� that �clanged upon her heart.� Her mind screams: �No! No! No!
It was impossible.� She finally, in a moment of wretched honesty, recognises her
affliction and admits her loss. She remembers all her past wounds and conceives of
the impossibility of any mobility.

The disease of the city and its inhabitants has finished its workings on the
consciousness of the Dubliner; now the soul is nothing but an epithet of passivity,
defeat, and paralysis. This establishes the temperament of the following stories,
which will only persist in decline, for we have long entered the gates of Hell,
and, recalling the inscription, there is no turning back.


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