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Exchanging Love for Death in James Joyce’s Eveline from Dubliners

Exchanging Love for Death in Eveline

Like “Araby,” “Eveline” is a story of young love, but unlike Mangan’s sister, Eveline has already been courted and won by Frank, who is taking her away to marry him and “to live with him in Buenos Ayres” (49). Or has she? When she meets him at the station and they are set to board the ship, Eveline suddenly decides she cannot go with Frank, because “he would drown her” in “all the seas of the world” (51). But Eveline’s rejection of Frank is not just a rejection of love, but also a rejection of a new life abroad and escape from her hard life at home. And water, as the practical method of escape, as well as a symbol of both rejuvenation and emotional vitality, functions in a multi-faceted way to show all that Eveline loses through her fear and lack of courage. By not plunging into those “seas of the world that tumble[d] about her heart” (51), Eveline forsakes escape, life, and love for the past, duty, and death.

Like many of the stories in Dubliners, moving eastward in “Eveline” is associated with new life. But for Eveline, sailing eastward with Frank is as much an escape as a promise of something better. From the story’s opening, she is passive and tired (46) and remembers old neighbors like “the Waters” who have since escaped east “to England” (47). She looks forward to “going… away like the others” (47). She admits she will not be missed at her job (47) and at nineteen, without the former protection of her older brothers, she is beginning to feel “herself in danger of her father’s violence” (48). Her father takes what little money she earns and she is in charge of her two younger siblings as well (48). The sound of a street organ playing an Italian tune is both a call to her fr…

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…e, and “perhaps love, too” and “she had a right to happiness” (50). Yet Eveline is not certain she will find love with Frank, just as she doesn’t know what kind of life they will have together. The adult world of desire, longing, fulfillment, and heartbreak roil about in “the seas of the world that tumbled about her heart” (51) and this unknown world of emotional vitality and power is as frightening to Eveline as the physical reality of sailing halfway round the world. In this realm she might drown, yes, but she might just as likely learn to swim. Yet by declining “to test the waters” Eveline condemns herself to a life without emotional fulfillment at all. In the rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood, Eveline feels only that the transformative experience will “drown” her old self and she is unable to adequately imagine a new self emerging from the waves.

Colonialism and Imperialism – Heart of Darkness and Post-Colonial Theory

Post-Colonial Theory and Heart of Darkness

“Heart of Darkness” begins and ends in London; on the Nellie on the Thames. The most part, however, takes place in the Congo (now known as the Republic of the Congo). The Kongo, as it was originally known, was inhabited first by pygmy tribes and migratory ‘Bantus’ and was ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese in the 14th Century. The Portuguese brought with them Catholocism; European missionaries. The Congo was ruled by King Alfonso I from 1506 – 1540 and Shamba Bolongongo from 1600 – 1620. The slave trade was rife in the Congo, from about 1500 until 1830. King Leopold of Belgium ruled, between 1878 and 1908, and would have been King at the time “Heart of Darkness” was set. Conrad himself actually arrived in the Congo on 12 June 1890, and it would be safe to say that he would have used his experience in the Congo when writing “Heart of Darkness”.

At its time of writing for Blackwood’s Magazine (December 1898), Britain was in its last years of Victorian rule. Queen Victoria was actually the niece of King Leopold of Belgium. Britain was the most powerful and influential nation on Earth; its Empire spread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Joseph Conrad, born in the Ukraine in 1857, as Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, as the author, was an outsider looking out. Neither British nor African, he seemed to be the perfect candidate for writing about two countries he had knowledge of – England and the Congo.

African exploration was quite popular; in Conrad’s day, Livingstone died in 1873, in Ilala, Africa, and Stanley returned from his final African expedition in 1890. As exploration was popular, so was the adventure story – tales of African exploration were available in abundance. Imperialism was also a popular theme at this point in the late nineteenth Century. Conrad’s novella, whilst to contemporary critics (Achebe, for example) may appear racist; at the time was accepted as another piece of work from a very much published genre. The novella is literally filled with literal and metaphoric opposites; the Congo and the Thames, black and white, Europe and Africa, good and evil, purity and corruption, civilisation and ‘triumphant bestiality’, light and the very ‘heart of darkness’.

Conrad portrays British imperialism in the perhaps naive character of Marlow, who is glad to see the “vast amount of red” on the Company’s map; signifying the British territory.

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