"Eveline" by James Joyce. The Social Influence on a Human Being

Term Paper, 2013

13 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Socialization

3. Eveline - the ´subject`

4. Social interaction

5. Institutions and Society

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In the film Rounders, they say “We can´t run from who we are”. And although this movie is not comparable to any significant achievement in the history of humankind, this quote contains a really controversial statement about humanity. We are predetermined. But do our genes really determinate us or are we able to actively influence our destiny? Maybe there is only progress in civilisation because of the interaction of genes and the active human being, or neither of them is of importance because our environment, which provides us all of our experiences, is the solely responsible for our fate? These questions become increasingly important in society. To answer them in a proper way is not only the task of parental education but becomes more and more important to teachers as well. We have to become aware of how influential our own actions are to others, especially to children, who are still in progress of defining their own personality. If we can comprehend to what our development depends on, we maybe can improve it actively, have a positive influence on the next generations and by that on the future of mankind.

The theoretical approach to deal with the topic is named socialisation. I will apply this by analysing the character of Eveline in the eponymous short story of James Joyce´s Dubliners. In the case of Eveline, the damage is done and I argue that she could not run from who she was either. Intensively discussed why Eveline could not leave from her invidious life, when she had the chance to, I claim that there has been no chance to her whether to leave or not. Her heteronomous character gave her no permission to run away from her home. For my argumentation I will take into consideration the theoretical approach of socialisation levels by Klaus-Jürgen Tillmann.

In general, socialisation is analysing the communal life of human beings in institutions like communities or societies. The main focus is on the development of human habits or character traits and how language, culture, and society influence them. This theoretical approach, with its out-sight perspective arises a lot of questions: For example, how education and parenting determinate the qualitative development of personality? Does such thing as a free will really exist? To what extent does an individual depend on society and his environment? How does the early education of values regulate decisions and personal freedom?

Solving these questions is only possible by analysing the behaviour of a human being. In literature, the analyses can be even more fundamental, because you sometimes get an inside view of certain characters. Not only can you contemplate about the behaviour but also about ideas and thoughts. Although this scientific theory is generally accepted, there is a lot of space for interpretations or even speculations. Every human being is influenced individually by his environment and there is no such thing like one general truth. You also have to consider that the interpreter has personal beliefs and values as well and so his view on the level of determination of characters is not a hundred percent objective one.

To analyse the process of socialisation properly, Klaus-Jürgen Tillmann defined four certain levels of influence to distinguish between. The first level contains the person itself, by Tillmann named the ´subject`, with its personal experience, abilities, knowledge and traits. Primarily connected to the ´subject` is the second level, the ´social interaction`, in which a person interferes with social groups like family, friends or peer groups. For the creation of personality, this is the most important level because of its omnipresence to the ´subject`. On this level, the individual learns some of the most important things in life, like how to fulfil an expected role in society, to obey rules (often learned by sanctions), how to think, feel and speak about certain things and how to become a mature personality. To summarize you can say that social interacting is the foundation for education and development of values. The third level describes the influence of ´institutions` on a human being. Here, the ´subject` has to fit in an institutionalised environment like a working place, school, church, home etcetera. On the fourth and last level, we examine the influence of ´society as a whole`. The focus on this level is on gender roles, social classes, political circumstances and economic developments. Although this socialising process is highly determining for an individual, the influence of society can only be provided indirectly by ´social interaction` and ´institutions`.(cf. Klaus-Jürgen Tillmann 10) In the following, I am going to study how these four levels influence Eveline´s fate to stay in Dublin.

3. Eveline - the ´subject`

To consider if the human destiny of our subject Eveline is predetermined by utter influences, we first have to analyse the subject itself with all her remarkable


What is striking from the beginning is the passiveness in which Eveline is described. About three-fourth of the story, she is just sitting at the window, lost in thoughts. Right in the first paragraph her passive character can be recognised by the line “in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne” (James Joyce, Eveline 37), which emphasises that she does not even actively breathe in the odour. She is tired, exhausted by her hard, monotonous work. Her mind is absent, lost in dreams and memories. This is the way Eveline flees from her “hard life” (39) and her violent father. She builds up her own dream world by remembering the past and by imagining a joyful future where “People would treat her with respect” (38). The whole process of escaping reality is passive because she does not create or change anything by just thinking about it. In her daydreams she remembers the past, when “they seemed to have been rather happy” (37) and “had all gone for a picnic” (41). In these memories, the family picture was intact and life was better than in present. Now her life is monotonous, she has to keep the house for her oppressing father and her younger siblings. That is her role, to be a replacement for her dead mother, if she wants to or not.

Eveline has a low self esteem because she is threatened by her father and victimised at the store she is working, by her boss, who “always had an edge on her”(38). This miss of confidence even perpetuates in the thoughts of Eveline. Everything just would be better and seemed happier. Her insecurity culminates in the fact, Eveline is not able to decide on her own. Her father is in charge of the money and power, and she only acts like she is supposed to do. Also her monotonous life gives her no need to decide on her own. And finally, when she has the opportunity to leave, she instead “prayed to God to direct her, to show her what her duty was”(42). She is asking for guidance because of her fear to do something wrong. This not only shows her inability to deal with things on her own, it also is a striking example for another character trait of her. She is very dutiful person. To fulfil duty is her way to be recognised in society. The view of society on her is really important to Eveline. She contemplates about the others would think of her, when she was leaving to Buenos Aires.

To keep the most significant traits in mind, i will summarize her personality briefly. Eveline is a young dutiful but passive girl, who never learned to decide on her own.

Because of her lack of opportunities and her harsh environment she flees into daydreams. Although she is strongly influenced by society, she is scared to get not recognition within it.

For considering Eveline as a victim of her surrounding environment, I am going examine the influence of her social interactions on her personal development. The main reason why Eveline had become what she is in the story is her family. The most dominant character to Eveline is her father with whom she lives together in a “little brown house” (37). He is the only family member of her childhood still being left to stay with her. In her girlhood, her father had already been a dominant and manly character. He often used “to hunt them in out of the fields with his blackthorn stick” (37) when they played in the fields. The “blackthorn stick” (37) constitutes a strongly masculine symbol and can be described as a tool of oppression and corporal punishment. “When they were growing up he had never gone for her, like he used to go for Harry and Earnest” (39) verifies this first implicit hint of domestic violence by her father. So you can argue, a threatening tension was present to her by this violence almost her whole life. “Even now, though she was nineteen, she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father´s violence.” (38). Furthermore, Eveline even explains that the threat of her father was increasing, because “now she had nobody to protect her” (39). The feeling of protection has a really influencing character on Eveline. For example her mother and brothers protected her from violence in her childhood and in her adulthood and a husband should protect her by marriage from the harsh view of society. These are just the most striking examples and will be described later in the text.

So still now, as she is nineteen and the only woman managing the household, her father oppresses her. The only thing she is allowed to decide is “Sunday´s dinner” (74). And for that she even has to “squabble for money” (39) with him. He accuses her “to squander the money” (39) and that “she had no head”(39), although “she always gave her entire wages” (39). On this incident you can see two influencing factors in the life of Eveline. On the one hand the omnipresent superior role of man to woman practised by her father, and on the other hand the lack of opportunities for Eveline to decide for her own. She spends all her money for her family and so she has no need to consider what to do with her wages from work. This fits to the earlier described character of Eveline, who is not able to decide on her own because she never learned it or was allowed to.

The character traits of the father and the way how he treats his children has a deep psychological impact on them, especially Eveline. For me, another aspect influencing Eveline not to leave Ireland is the negative way her father thinks about emigration. He curses about the “Damned Italians! coming over here!”(41) and even an old school friend of his, who was accorded the honour to decorate the Hills living room with his picture, is barely mentioned “with a casual word -He is in Melbourne now-” (38). That could imply that this school friend has no more worth to him, because he left his home and friends. Another small piece that contributes to the inability of Eveline to leave Ireland. Maybe she unconsciously is scared to be degraded as well, when she leaves to Buenos Aires and that her father thinks of her personality as not worth mentioning. To be only another emigrant, another picture, no individual. This fear intensifies as she tries to escape with Frank. In this moment she cannot even focus on the two of them as individuals are about to start a new live. She is distracted by “the swaying crowd in the station” (42) and is frightened to become a part “of the black mass on the boat” (42).

Her father even forbids her to meet other emigrants like Frank with the explanation: “-I know these sailor chaps-” (40). Not only does this hint to his anti- emigration beliefs but also show another aspect of the father-daughter relationship. He does not want Frank to take Eveline with him. He depends on Eveline because he “was becoming old lately” (41). The internal focalisation of Eveline clearly shows that she is aware of it by the sentence “he would miss her” (41). So her father does not want her to see Frank regularly because he needs her at home to support him, not only financially but also with “the two young children who had been left to her charge”(39). His dependence is also clearly noticeable when Eveline got sick someday and he forgets about his cold-hearted manners and “had read her out a ghost story and made toast for her at the fire” (41). This is the only nice thing he has done for her, mentioned in the story, beside of one incidence in her girlhood, where he sets his rough manly manners aside and wears woman´s “bonnet”(141) to make the children laugh. For her, these memories of an intact family were the only dreams she could flee to from her monotonous life, as I described earlier. Back then she was


Excerpt out of 13 pages


"Eveline" by James Joyce. The Social Influence on a Human Being
University of Würzburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
James Joyce, Eveline, Short story, Pschoanalysis, Sigmund, Freud, literature
Quote paper
Marcus Wenzel (Author), 2013, "Eveline" by James Joyce. The Social Influence on a Human Being, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/450713


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