Stylistic Analysis of James Joyces 'Eveline'

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007

12 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Semantics
2.1 Semantic Fields
2.1.1 The Main Semantic Fields in “Eveline“
2.1.2 Semantic Fields and Atmosphere
2.1.3 Semantic Fields and Intertextuality in “Eveline”
2.2 Connotations
2.2.1 Important Connotations in “Eveline”
2.2.2 Connotations and the Conflicts in the Story
2.3 Container Metaphors in “Eveline”

3. Syntax
3.1 Sentence Structures
3.2 Phrases of Habitual Past Actions
3.3 Expressing Passivity through Predicates

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography
Primary Literature:
Secondary Literature:

1. Introduction

In 1903 James Joyce wrote the novel Dubliners[1], which consists of short stories about selected Irish people portraying their lives in Dublin. “Eveline“ is one of the short stories of adolescence[2] in this collection, as it deals with a young nineteen year old woman named Eveline, who is confronted with the decision on whether she should leave Dublin with her boyfriend Frank and start a new life in Buenos Aires or stay in her old habits. The story is written from a third-person limited point of view and because of this the reader is able to perceive Eveline’s world through her perspective.[3] The reader witnesses how Eveline tries to discover herself and her own wishes. But her way of initiation is meant to lead to an surprising conclusion by Eveline in the end.[4]

What is so fascinating about “Eveline“ is not only the plot itself, but the way Joyce illustrates the situation of Eveline linguistically through his way of writing. Through various linguistic means Joyce pictures Eveline’s “fear of taking a chance, fear of the unknown and of change”[5]. Therefore his linguistic techniques as they create the atmosphere of “Eveline”, which itself derives from outside events, the action of the characters and descriptions of persons or things not belonging to the plot of the story[6], should be worth a further look on. A linguistic analysis seems appropriate here since it supports and substantiates the subconscious impressions of the readership, which are more or less only based on interpretative approaches taking “Eveline” as a piece of literature by analysing only its plot, the characters and social context.[7] In the following I will concentrate on the main stylistic devices, which are used by James Joyce to picture the plot on a linguistic level, that means through Semantics (which will also be discussed on a short comparison with Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”[8] and William Golding’s The Inheritors[9]) and Syntax.

2. Semantics

2.1 Semantic Fields

2.1.1 The Main Semantic Fields in “Eveline“

Eveline has to face a life of great losses in an filthy area of Dublin. The story depicts her sitting at a window in her home thinking about her past and future life while observing the daily life on the streets in Dublin. In this description lexical sets dealing with the semantic fields of poverty / money and death[10], but also time[11] are dominant. Words like “brown”, “little” (46), “hard” (47), “squabble”, “squander” and “hard-earned” (48) can be connected to the semantic field of poverty or better to say to the field of money as a head category of this field. Whereas “dusty” (46), “dead”, “yellowing”, “broken”, “away”, “leave” (47), “illness” and “sick-room” (50) are in the group of words dealing with death. During Eveline’s flashback, but also in her fears concerning her future the semantic field of time is an omnipresent indicator with phrases like: “One time”, “long time ago” (46), “now”, “once a week”, “many years”, “those years”, “all her life”, “then” (47), “latterly”, “always”, “regularly” (48), “first time”, “few weeks ago”, “every evening”, “one day”, “lately”, “sometimes”, “not long before” (49), “another day”, “her time was running out”, “that very night”, “last night” (50), “tomorrow” (51). But also a positive semantic field can be found as a sign of positive emotions and life, which express a feeling of hope in contradiction to the omnipresent death: It contains words like “new”, “bright” and “shining” (46), but also “alive (46), “life”, “love” and “happiness”(50). This semantic field is a contradiction to Eveline’s life in her old house as she is observing the changes in her hometown, from which she is not allowed to benefit.[12]

2.1.2 Semantic Fields and Atmosphere

The recently discussed semantic fields show the external circumstances of Eveline as everything around her seems to remind her of poverty and death.[13] They are responsible for the depressed atmosphere, which pervades the entire story. But the semantic fields of poverty and death also display like a metonymy Eveline’s inner feelings.[14] This kind of atmosphere contributes to a feeling of helplessness and passivity. Her mood is connected to the dusty familiar things around her and the past incidents in her childhood, which she tries to remember in this moment. Like the furniture around her is old and covered with dust or broken she behaves in an equal static way and seems to be connected to the room like its inventory. Everybody in her family knows that she is there, but nobody seems to care. She actually is old established inventory, too, and even her old father, who is getting old, “seems to be moving in her consciousness toward another of those ‘familiar objects’ on which the dust will soon be settling in her domestic prison”[15].

The semantic field of time is in two ways important and constituting for the development of the plot. On the one hand the aspect of time is the logical basis of Eveline’s flashback, her considering and the foreshadowing of upcoming events in the story and in this function remembering past times can only be helpful for Eveline to take a reasonable decision. But on the other hand, time and the consequences of change are like the sword of Damocles over Eveline’s head, a burden which forces her to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible as Frank is going to leave soon and actually her time is “running out” (50).[16]

2.1.3 Semantic Fields and Intertextuality in “Eveline”

The displayed semantic fields also function as a cohesive element in the text as it is “a semantic unit of language in use”[17]. These interrelations are based on a recurring presence of words or phrases, which derive from the same lexical sets and belong to the same semantic fields. That means that these fields support the overall relation between the sentences as a basis of their coherence.[18] Therefore they are necessary to maintain the depressed atmosphere during Eveline’s inner struggle throughout the story as the dominant semantic fields depict Eveline’s home to the reader. Additionally they are used to reveal the contrastive structure in the text[19], which will be discussed later in relationship with existing connotations in “Eveline”.

2.2 Connotations

2.2.1 Important Connotations in “Eveline”

In Eveline two towns are of major importance: Dublin and Buenos Aires. These towns are personified on the one side by Eveline’s father and on the other side by her boyfriend Frank. Therefore it can be observed that the same attitudes towards the towns and the people, who represent them, are used.[20] The contrasts between these entities are displayed through their connotations. Dublin is pictured by “odour of dusty cretonne” (46) and “crowds” (48) whereas Buenos Aires stands for “distant”, “unknown” (47) and “respect” (48) in Eveline’s eyes.[21] Attributes which describe Eveline’s father at the present are “hunt”, “bad” (46), “danger”, “violence”, “palpitations”, “threaten” (48), “forbidden”, “quarrelled” and “old” (49), but also a positive side in him as “miss”, “nice” (49) and “laugh” (50) express. But above this the occurrence of negative connotations overweighs her father’s positive attributes.[22] In contrast to her father Eveline conveys her image of Frank with “explore”, “kind”, “manly”, “open-hearted”, “wife” (48), “home”, “bronze”, “music”, “sang”, “fun”, “excitement”, “fellow”, “tales”, “lover” (49), “escape”, “save”, “live” and “happiness” (50). The only negative attribute is “drown”(51).


[1] James Joyce, “Eveline“, Harry Levin (ed.) The Portable James Joyce (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1977).

[2] Ingersoll, p.501.

[3] Mischkowski, p.98.

[4] See Melzer, p.479.

[5] Chatman, Seymor, p.22.

[6] See Chatman, Seymor, p.36.

[7] See Gerbig, Andrea, 20.07.2007 <

[8] Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”, Paul Brians a.o. (Ed.),Reading About the World,20.08.2007 <

[9] William Golding, The Inheritors (London: Faber and Faber, 1974 6).

[10] See Mischkowski, p.96.

[11] See Hawthorn, p.114.

[12] See Hart, p.48.

[13] See Mischkowski, p.96.

[14] See Ingersoll, p.503.

[15] Ingersoll, p.505.

[16] See Hawthorn, p.114.

[17] Stubbs, p.124.

[18] See Mischkowski, p.98.

[19] See Mischkowski, p.97.

[20] See Mischkowski, p.98.

[21] See Mischkowski, p.97.

[22] See Mischkowski, p.98.

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Stylistic Analysis of James Joyces 'Eveline'
University of Trier  (Anglistik)
Literary Linguistics
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Stylistic, Analysis, James, Joyces, Eveline
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Anne-Mareike Franz (Author), 2007, Stylistic Analysis of James Joyces 'Eveline', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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