Yet again, this story focuses on the theme of escape. While the young boy narrators of the previous stories are too young to leave Ireland or do anything about their poverty, Eveline has been given a chance. Yet in the end, the girl finds herself incapable of going.
Certainly, she has every reason to leave. The portrait we have of her family life is less than heart-warming. We see that she has taken on an incredible part of the burden in keeping the family together, as her mother did before her. Her father, despite the points he wins for not beating her, is a domineering and unfair man, who makes his daughter work and then keeps her wages. Rather than appreciate her sacrifices, he ridicules her. Unpleasant characters in Joyce's works often criticize the Irishman who leaves Ireland, the most common sentiment being that these expatriates are ungrateful children of their country. Joyce, himself an expatriate, turns this insult around in "Eveline": we see not an ungrateful child, but an ungrateful parent. Eveline's stifling family life becomes a metaphor for the trap that is Ireland.
Her mother provides the chilling example of what it means to be a grateful child, and to do what is expected: we learn that she lived a life "of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness" (33). At the end of her life she is true Irish, babbling in Ireland's native language (which nationalists had been trying to revitalize). However, the phrase she utters repeatedly is probably nonsense; at best it is corrupt Gaelic. The meaninglessness of the phrase suggests, metaphorically, that the sacrifices have also been meaningless.Eveline's mother has earned nothing but madness.
The stages-of-life structure continues. Eveline is adult, a young woman old enough to get married. Joyce gives us in concise detail the terrible poverty and pressure of her situation. The weight of poverty and family responsibilities bear down on this young woman heavily; her financial situation is...