IDENTITY CRISIS OF A YOUNG WOMAN: AN ANALYSIS OF “EVELINE” BY JAMES JOYCE

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James Joyce’s short story “Eveline” emphasizes the condition of women in the early 20th century Ireland. Until the last few years of the 1990s, women were second-class citizens in Ireland and had to endure discrimination in every sector of the society (Horgan, 2001). They had limited opportunities in educational institutions, male family members had the control over their decisions, and employers generally hired women for menial labour and paid less than the male labours. In these circumstances, most women tried to create an identity. In his short story “Eveline”, James Joyce depicts the theme of women’s internal struggle to find an identity in the patriarchal societies through the character Eveline who is trying to create an identity through the conflicts she experiences with the male characters in her life and her memories about her past.


Throughout the story, Eveline does not speak of her own identity as ‘Eveline’ but she describes herself in relation to her father, brother, and later to her companion Frank, who all influence her in the way of creating an identity. Eveline is utterly committed to home due to her father’s oppressions and her role in the family, and she does not have any chance for socializing through which she can explore her qualities as an individual of the society. A study of identity development shows that most people think that the “network of social relationships retain the sense of identity” (Hart 105). These social relationships begin from the childhood with the care of the parents and siblings. In fact, Eveline grew up without any support from her family. Eveline’s relationship with her father is based on fear as her father has begun to “threaten her” after her mother’s death (2-3) and did not treat her the same as her brothers. That is, Eveline has not received any love or care from his father and has grown up to a timid and antisocial young woman who “feels herself in danger of her father's violence” (2). Eveline’s psychological state causes her to become an obedient daughter in the extreme out of fear from her father’s violence that she barely leaves home except for work, and these domestic affairs give Eveline no other opportunity than identifying herself with “shelter and food whom she had known all her life about her” (2). One other obstacle for Eveline’s identity development is her memories of her dying mother. Ms. Hill, Eveline’s mother, has spent her life as an obedient wife to her husband and as a mother, doing nothing more than caring about the family and fulfilling her daily duties such as cleaning and cooking set by the male-dominated society. Even though Eveline wants to break free from these obligations, “her mother has circumscribed Eveline's own life-choices by getting her into the traditional role of a carer by asking her to 'keep the home together for as long as she could'” at the point of death (O'Brien, 210). Eveline’s last memories of her mother and the promise she has made to her do not allow her to move further with her own life, and prompt her to take over her mother’s role, in other words ‘identity’, in the family; she does not stand up to her father’s wishes as her mother also did in the past. Due to the fear-based relationship between Eveline and her father, she cannot have an independent life and create a personal identity with her own qualities.


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Hart, Daniel. “The Development of Personal Identity in Adolescence: A Philosophical Dilemma Approach.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 1, (1988): 105–114. JSTOR. Web. 03 Jan. 2017.
Haslam, Alexander S. Psychology in Organizations. n.p.: Sage, (2004): 21. SAGE Publications Ltd. 2004. Web. 03 Jan. 2017.
Horgan, Goretti. "Changing Women’s Lives in Ireland." International Socialism Journal 91 (2001): n. pag. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Joyce, James. "Eveline." (n.d.). www.lonestar.edu. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
O'Brien, Eugene. “'Because She Was a Girl': Gender Identity and the Postcolonial in James Joyce's 'Eveline'.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 93, no. 370, (2004): 201–215. JSTOR. Web. 20. Nov. 2016.