Table of Contents
3. A Painful Case
James Joyce’s book Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories and, as the name already tells, they are about the lives of people living in Dublin. The novellas are about men and women of every age. In the book are different stages of life. The story “Eveline” is a childhood story. The story “A Painful Case” is an adulthood story. Terence Brown describes the work „as a book of churches” (Brown XXX). For Joyce, church and faith are very important, and Dublin and its citizens are characterised by the Christian religion. Although the stories are all self-contained, the book can be read as a whole. As the reader will notice by reading there are many links between the different stories and they take place in the same city –Dublin. When James Joyce wrote the book, he had already left Ireland for France in order to study medicine. This could be a possible hint to why the book can, on the one hand, be seen as a book about Dubliners by a Dubliner but, on the other hand, it can be also seen as a book about Dublin from an outside perspective. David G. Wright emphasises that Dubliners shows how Joyce himself could have become if he had stayed in the capital of Ireland (Wright 14). Therefore, the book can be seen as an explanation and if there has to be one, as an apology for James Joyce, why he decided to leave Ireland. As Andrew Gibson states, the paralysis of the lives of the Dubliners, which is shown by Joyce, is “post-catastrophic” (Gibson 76), referring to the famine that brought many Irish into poverty.
This paper takes a closer look at the two stories “Eveline” and “A Painful Case”. The autobiographical aspect becomes obvious because David G. Wright writes that the main characters of these two stories are created after the model of James Joyce’s siblings Margaret and Stanislaus (Wright 22/23). Furthermore, as it will be examined in this paper, Dubliners relates Joyce’s own feelings about Dublin.
Eveline tries to flee from Dublin and her family, unlike Mr. Duffy, the main character of “A Painful Case”, who is a loner and who is content to remain just where and how he is. Both narratives describe a relationship with the opposite-sex. Eveline has a lover who gives her the opportunity to escape from Dublin, because she does not like the city very much. Mr. James Duffy becomes acquainted with a married woman, although he is generally a solitary person and does not even have contact to his family.
I want to look about and also compare the impact which the relationships have on the lives and decisions of the main characters.
“Eveline” is one of the fifteen short stories in James Joyce’s book Dubliners. The story tells about a young woman who lives in Dublin together with her father and siblings is described. Since her mother’s death, she has been dissatisfied with her life. That is why the story tells about her plan to flee from Dublin with her lover Frank. At the beginning of the story, Eveline looks out of the window and reminisces about her childhood in Dublin. Back then there were fields where now “bright big houses” are (Joyce 29). Those houses were built by “a man from Belfast” (Joyce 29). This paragraph shows the contrast between Eveline’s unhappiness and the houses which look so happy and “bright” (Joyce 29). It seems that everything which does not have any connection with Dublin is nice for her. Furthermore, Clive Hart describes the houses as being prisons for Eveline (Hart 52). It states how confining they are. Afterwards, she thinks about the past, when her life was prosperous and full of gladness. It is important to notice that this was the time when her mother still was alive. When she was a little girl she used to play in the fields with her friends, her brothers and her father, who “was not so bad then” (Joyce 29). It indicates that the main character now has many problems with her father.
After the reflection on her childhood, the perspective changes and her present life and feelings are portrayed. At this point, her plan to leave home is mentioned for the first time. (Joyce 29) She looks around their house and observes all the things which she used to know since she was a child. (Joyce 29) A picture of a priest seems to be very significant for her; she realises that she does not know the name of this priest even though the picture has been hanging there all her life.(Joyce 30) Eveline is just aware of the fact that he had been one of her father’s school friends (Joyce 30). The sentence “Whenever he showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a casual word; -He is in Melbourne now.” (Joyce 30) indicates that the picture represents Eveline’s plan to flee, just as the priest had done. As David G. Wright points out, Melbourne, which means “better place”, and Buenos Ayres, which denotes “good air”, stand in contrast to Dublin, which is dusty (Wright 25). Afterwards the reader recognises for the first time that the young woman is not entirely convinced of her idea to get away. She begins to weigh the plan’s advantages against the disadvantages. She would not miss her job, but she is also afraid about how her life would be in another country. Which can be seen by the quote “But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that.” (Joyce 30) At this point, the reader gets the feeling that there are just a few cons or rather concern about her emigration and that the pros prevail.
The most obvious reason for her to escape seems to be the relationship with her father. It becomes clear that he sometimes becomes violent and that she is afraid of him (Joyce 30). What is more, Joyce describes that her father had always preferred her brothers because “she was a girl” (Joyce 30), meaning that she was considered as less valuable because she was not a boy. Furthermore, her father frightens her by saying “what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake.” (Joyce 30) Another reason for the poor relationship between Eveline and her father is that he does not trust her and says that she “squander[s] money” (Joyce 31).Every Weekend on Saturday night Eveline and her brother Harry spend their money for buying dinner. They always have to convince their father to spend some of his money on the dinner. And she has to do all the housework without any help (Joyce 31). But the first evidence about her uncertainty concerning her emigration is “It was hard work-a hard life- but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.”(Joyce 31) This quotation shows that, on the one hand, she is unhappy with the circumstances of her life, but, on the other hand, she is so familiar with them and can not leave them, otherwise she would miss them if she lived far away from Dublin and Ireland.
After that part of the story, Joyce goes into more detail about Eveline’s plan to emigrate. This is the first time her boyfriend Frank, with whom she wants to go to Buenos Ayres, is mentioned. Due to the fact that James Joyce writes “First of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like him.”(Joyce 32) the reader becomes aware of the fact that this was not love at first sight and perhaps that it is not real love at all. It is maybe just the love for the idea to flee from Ireland. And he is her only chance to realise this idea. If anything, the relation with Frank provides a feeling of security and happiness, which stands in sharp contrast to the relationship with her father. Donald T. Torchiana describes Eveline’s connection to Frank as “Her only salvation lies in her suitor Frank.” (Torchiana 73) which shows that Frank is rather a saver than a lover for Eveline. She sees in him a way to get out and that is the first point for her. It could be seen when James Joyce writes “he would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live.” (Joyce 33) It becomes obvious when one get to know about her feelings in her mind: in her opinion life is more important than love. However, her father is against Eveline’s relationship with Frank, so they have to meet secretly (Joyce 32). This fact implicates also that Eveline is not able to do or even say something against her father. In order to avoid conflicts she meets Frank without saying one word to her father.
After describing Eveline’s childhood and present circumstances, James Joyce returns to the situation when she looks out of the window and thinks about what she is going to do. While sitting there, she remembers the promise she made to her mother: “to keep the home together as long as she could.” (Joyce 33) At this point of the story, the biggest disadvantage against leaving Dublin for Buenos Ayres with Frank becomes evident. She gave her word to her mother. Just before she died. Eveline’s mother is unquestionably very important for her; her whole life appears to depend on her mother. Before her mother’s death, Eveline’s life was wonderful, at least in her memories, even the relationship with her father was good. After her mother died, Eveline’s life changed so completely that Eveline was now, at the age of nineteen, ready to flee from her home. The young woman interrupts her thoughts when she hears a street organ playing and imagines hearing the voice of her mother (Joyce 33). This is the moment when she makes the decision to go to the harbour in order to escape from Dublin.