Waking of a Dream

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Eveline, the main character in the short story, “Eveline,” by James Joyce is ambivalent about her upcoming departure from her home. Eveline has met a sailor named Frank who offers to help her escape the hardships of her life. While she is supposed to be getting ready to start a new life, she stalls. Eveline drags her feet because she will always be tied to her past. Eveline never wanted to leave with Frank, he was simply a fantasy to distract her from her impoverished and oppressive life.
Eveline is not excited about leaving, but rather resigned to it. Joyce writes, “Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like the others, leave her home.”(1) When Joyce says that “everything changes” he is referring to the changes that Eveline had experienced since her childhood. Her brothers and sisters were all grown up, and her mother and other loved ones had passed away. Her older siblings had left home, and her mother had left also. Their reasons for leaving though, death and aging, are two uncontrollable parts of life. The author then says Eveline, “was going to go away like the others.” The others had left home not because they wanted to, they had no choice. This line implies that to Eveline, leaving with Frank was like dying or growing up. It was something she couldn’t control. The author then writes, “She had consented to go away, to leaver her home. Was that Wise?” When the author uses the phrase, “Eveline had consented” to go away and it shows that it was more of an agreement, not something Eveline truly wanted. She also questions whether or not it is a good decision. These lines reveal her lack of confidence in her choice. She never wanted to actually leave with Frank.
Frank represented a diversion from her daily struggles. Although she is only 19, Eveline is incredibly exhausted and stressed out. Eveline did not live an easy life. “Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages…”(2) The phrase “invariable squabble” explains the never ending battle and the tense relationship her family and she had over money. Money was a constant worry and she had to turn her pay checks over to her father. When Frank came into her life, he was a break from her daily struggles. “He was standing at the gate, his peaked cap pushed back on his head and his hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze...” (2) Frank is described as this fashionable, gorgeous, rich man. He was a man Eveline only dreamed about. “He took her to see the Bohemian Girl and she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the theatre with him.”(2) Eveline was attracted by his good looks and the whole different world he lived in. The fact that she, Eveline, a working class woman was going to the movies, and sitting in expensive seats, was such a change for her. She felt proud, excited, and important to be part of this new, prosperous world. This quick transition into the different world, one that she had only fantasized about previously, offered a sweet escape from the drudgery of her daily existence. She never planned on making this permanent. She liked that her arrangement with Frank allowed her to visit a dream world, yet she would always return to her own home.
Eveline never strongly considered what her new life with Frank would be like. Her fragile state of mind is reflected when the author writes, “She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her.”(3) Eveline stands up in a “sudden impulse.” The word impulse reveals that the idea of Frank being her savior isn’t well thought out. It’s an urge that she acts upon without thinking. Right before she is going to step on the boat and leave her whole world behind, the author writes, “All the seas of her world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.”(3) When the author says the “seas tumbled about her heart,” Eveline gets this blast of reality. She was about to leave her life behind and her heart is what tells her this isn’t what she wanted. Even though her current existence was bleak and difficult, she realizes that a life with Frank would suffocate her. The author says, “He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.” His world was a life she wasn’t ready for. It was a life she couldn’t survive in.
From the beginning, Eveline’s attitude toward leaving was passive. When Eveline first met Frank she was blinded by all he had to offer. Her situation at home was difficult, and the new, spectacular world she moved in and out of made her feel important. However, the thought of a permanent life with Frank was only a fantasy that she was not willing to act upon. When she woke up from this dream she had no regrets. Eveline holds on to her past as Frank takes one final look at her. Joyce writes, “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.”(3)





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