In “Eveline,” we see a love tale in which a young girl struggles to separate herself from her family in order to follow her love into the arms of her young boyfriend, Frank. She dreams of how he will rescue her from her tormented life. She thinks about how violent her father has been and how there is no one to defend her anymore. Frank represents her liberation.
This short story has very powerful elements of setting, symbols, and themes. Indeed, we see how the portrait of the priest on the wall represents the tradition upon which the family has been raised; yet Eveline does not even know who he is. Nonetheless, the values the Priest represented are a strong theme. We also see an overall theme of the desire to escape from life's circumstances. Eveline dreams of freedom and of escaping the captivity of her childhood.
The setting is, overall, of a seemingly typical local town. We meet many characters. We find out the details of Eveline's mother’s death and how her brothers are gone now. One of them still tries to take care of her and sends her money. Her father’s character has deteriorated, and he has begun to have Saturday nights that are not filled with pristine behavior.
The mood of this story is very dark and sad. Family appears to be a strong theme, but it seems to be more oppressing than liberating. Indeed, Eveline has been suffocated by her family and also oppressed to a very large extent. There is much tragedy here. There is a need for family, yet Eveline clearly needs to leave what is left of her family in order to re-invent herself.
Thus, the family theme can be seen in Eveline as she stays and, as a teen, takes over the role of mother in the household. In some ways, this sets up an incestuous situation, though perhaps not in a sexual sense. She plays the mother figure yet her father still has power over her, and threatens her. After her mother's death, she obviously felt that it was her duty to take care of the family, and she owed that much to her mother.
Overall, the concept of death seems ever present. Eveline's friends and family all die at some point. For instance, Earnest, her mother, and the priest have all died. To some extent, we begin to consider that her dream of freedom and of being with Frank will also die. Yet Mary Margaret Alacoque, a French nun, perhaps represents redemption in this story. Even though her dreams will be shattered, there will still be redemption.
This is also a story about poverty and how it has shattered a family. Money is so precious that it divides family. Eveline must walk to the market pressing her purse close to her body to protect it at all times. In the end, of course, love appears to be stronger than money—the love for family and community. Eveline ultimately gives up her chance with Frank so that she may return to her family.
More than anything else, however, this is a story about reality—the reality that, ultimately, people cannot escape who they really are. They can dream of a better tomorrow, but such a vision of a perfect future is unrealistic if it entails rejecting the reality of who and what one really is.
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