Eveline is one of the earliest stories of the collection DUBLINERS by James Joyce (1914). It was first published in the "Irish Homestead" in September 1904 .
This is one of those cases I was trying to write about in one of my latest posts. It is so incredibly beautiful and touching but so definitely hopeless!
I read it - well, re-read it actually- with my eldest students this morning. It is perfect for them to identify themselves with the protagonist since she is just 19 years old.  Eveline is facing a crucial moment in her life: she has decided to go away, to leave her home and what remains of her family (her mother and one of her brothers died) to settle down in a distant unknown country, Argentina, with a sailor, Frank. She is sitting near the window, the evening is entering the avenue. She looks outside her window and in the few minutes she spends at that window, we are led by a third person narrator through  her memories, emotions, expectations, doubts, regrets and fears. Three deeply intense pages just covering a couple of hours in the life of this Irish girl of the beginning of the 20th century, one of Joyce's Dubliners. Few pages and few hours but so full of life, emotions, moving moments.
The pervasive theme in Dubliners is paralysis. The paralysis Joyce wants to portray is both physical and moral (resulting from religion, politics, culture). His Dubliners are spiritually weak people, anti-heroes, frightened or slaves to their familiar, moral, cultural and political life. The co-theme is the failure to find a way out of paralysis, they failure of their attempts to escape.
As you can imagine, Eveline's dream to escape her desolated hard life is doomed to failure. Her dream of a married life with Frank in Argentina will never come true.
And my students, especially girls were so sad at the end of our reading. They expected it, they had already read an introduction to Dubliners discussing the main themes, nonetheless they went on hoping ... till the end.

If you have got some spare time - it doesn't take long - and you want to read it, here 's the link to an online version of Eveline. If you manage to read it or have already read it, I'd love to know what you think of it. I simply love the story of this young love won by a strong sense of duty. In the final lines , some critics see the first signs of madness in Eveline (her mother had died crazy after a life of sacrifices) , others only lack of strength or courage. What do you think of her choice? Was it cowardice, lack of will-power, strong sense of duty or just the only sensible choice a 19-year-old - girl had ?

A question of choices. Life is always made of choices. Some of them not at all easy, sometimes even heartbreaking. This is something I've also found in a good 2-part series from BBC I've recently watched, A PASSIONATE WOMAN. I wrote about it when it was just announced and since it had a promising plot and a very good cast, I wished I could see it (Have a look at my previous post here).
Kay Mellor, one of Britain's leading TV writers, has dedicated this work to her own mother because it is inpired to her true story. (Watch Kay Mellor's presentation of A Passionate Woman in this video)

I  didn't feel so much involved in the story in the first episode, I really couldn't sympathize with  Betty (Billie Piper) , a young wife and mother who falls passionately and hopelessly in love with her charismatic Polish neighbour, Alex Crazenovskiby (Theo James) . They start having an affair at the expences of her good-hearted, understanding, patient,  devoted husband, Donald (Joe Armstrong). 
The first episode is just built on Betty sexual attraction to Alex: they secretly meet as often as they can and everything seems driven , urged by passion . Eventually, handsome Alex is  tragically killed just when he was about to leave his wife for Betty, who had made up her mind to respectively  leave her husband and little son for him.

Some 30 years later, in Eighties Thatcherite Britain, her affair will implode on her beloved son Mark's ( Andrew Lee Potts ) wedding day. Sue Johnston,  as Betty in the Eighties opposite Alun Armstrong , Donald in the Eighties, is extraordinarily good at conveying the desperation of this woman, who has built her life on idolizing the memory of her lost love and sacrificing her wish for happiness and freedom  for her son. She has remained with her husband all these years only for  her son's sake. She has poured all the love she dreamt of giving to Alex, her dead lover,  on her son.  She's been unhappy, depressed and unsatisfied all her life through but has coped with all that for her son's sake. But when she discovers that he plans to move to Australia, to the other side of the world after marrying, she goes literally crazy , collapses and she wants to die. There are both extremely touching  and extremely hilarious moments in the second part.

She's got a loving, if dull, husband...

She's got a passionate handsome lover...

She feels like a bird in a cage...

A question of love, a question of choices . I was so moved watching the second part of this story. I could really sympathize with Betty this time.

Does this mean I have become that old?


Luciana said...

I think that everything around us (our culture, our religion, etc.) has an impact un us and on how we behave, but just because we go on following it it doesn't mean we have paralysis. maybe sometimes, but not always, not if we believe on that. I've just read "Eveline" and I don't think she had lack of strength or courage. It wasn't cowardice in my opinion. I believe that she probably realised that there are things that are more important than our own happiness. And besides, she could not be sure of what was going to be her life in Argentina. As for "A passionate woman", as I have not watched it I can give my opinion based only on your account. But I cannot sympathise with the story. For me her affair wasn't right, even if he loved that other man. And it gave me the impression that she only stayed with her family because he died. And she made a choice of being with her son, but his life is not hers and she should be prepared to let him go, as all mothers do.

Katherine said...

I hadn't heard of this story before, thank you for the post, MG! :)