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Joyce’s Portrayal Of Thought In Eveline

991 words - 4 pages

Joyce’s portrayal of thought in “Eveline”

Among the short stories in the collection Dubliners by James Joyce, “Eveline” is a story
wherein the reader views the world through the eyes of the eponymous heroine. In delineating
her contemplations, Joyce mainly uses the third person narrative with traces of free indirect
discourse. The narration sequence at first glance appears to be highly disconnected. However, it
is through the judicious use of both these devices that Joyce succeeds in portraying – with a great
deal of realism – the progression of thought in the human mind. By using this peculiar mode of
narration, Joyce makes us realize that, the process of thinking is not crisp and continuous after
the fashion of a well-crafted chain of deductive logic. Rather, this reader is presented with a
different paradigm – that of staccato bursts mistily but surely connected by the wispy links of
key phrases and events. The unmistakable message Joyce leaves us with is that human thought
does not proceed in a straight line.
“Eveline” is the story of a young girl – her memories, fears and aspirations. It is no mean
feat to convey the naked thoughts of a human being, to paint the dull and the bright shades of
feeling with like fidelity and to bring back what has been lost during the translation to words. We
can start to appreciate how Joyce does this by considering the distribution of sentences in some
of the paragraphs in the story. At first sight, the sentences appear to be rather slapdash in that
they do not bear the mark of being part of a continuous sequence of logical thought, as one
would expect from a piece of formal writing. The following lines illustrate this point:
“...she heard his footsteps clacking along the concrete pavement and afterwards
crunching on the 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...” [Underlining mine] (Joyce, 5-12).
The underlined words indicate the main ideas in the sentences and one can readily observe that
the ideas do not connect between consecutive sentences. Instead, they branch out and reconnect
after a while (again through the judicious ‘scattering’ of key words and phrases) giving the
(much sought-after) illusion of real human thought. By the use of this device, Joyce portrays the
stream of thought as the stochastic process that it is.
That the lines quoted above form a part of the protagonist’s reminiscences, is not
explicitly stated anywhere in the text. For the most part, Joyce uses indirect speech to convey
these thoughts, and this tends to take the focus away from the protagonist. However, the
occasional use of the free indirect style brings the focus back to...

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