Exchanging Love for Death in Eveline
Like "Araby," "Eveline" is a story of young love, but unlike Mangan's sister, Eveline has already been courted and won by Frank, who is taking her away to marry him and "to live with him in Buenos Ayres" (49). Or has she? When she meets him at the station and they are set to board the ship, Eveline suddenly decides she cannot go with Frank, because "he would drown her" in "all the seas of the world" (51). But Eveline's rejection of Frank is not just a rejection of love, but also a rejection of a new life abroad and escape from her hard life at home. And water, as the practical method of escape, as well as a symbol of both rejuvenation and emotional vitality, functions in a multi-faceted way to show all that Eveline loses through her fear and lack of courage. By not plunging into those "seas of the world that tumble[d] about her heart" (51), Eveline forsakes escape, life, and love for the past, duty, and death.
Like many of the stories in Dubliners, moving eastward in "Eveline" is associated with new life. But for Eveline, sailing eastward with Frank is as much an escape as a promise of something better. From the story's opening, she is passive and tired (46) and remembers old neighbors like "the Waters" who have since escaped east "to England" (47). She looks forward to "going... away like the others" (47). She admits she will not be missed at her job (47) and at nineteen, without the former protection of her older brothers, she is beginning to feel "herself in danger of her father's violence" (48). Her father takes what little money she earns and she is in charge of her two younger siblings as well (48). The sound of a street organ playing an Italian tune is both a call to her from the East across the water and a reminder of her mother's death. She cannot end up like her mother, "living a life of commonplace sacrificies closing in final craziness" and her only recourse is to "escape" with Frank; "He would save her" (50) if she goes with him east across the seas. When she fails to go with Frank, Eveline indeed succumbs to the prospect of an imprisoning life like her mother's.
Water also signifies rejuvenation, the possibilities of a new life. In contrast to her present life full of "hard work-a hard life," Eveline looks forward to exploring...