The stories of adolescence deal with the moment of entrapment; that is the moment at which the characters become aware of the paralysis that they are caught in. In the case of Eveline, the metaphor of paralysis is illustrated in the most obviously physical way.
It is the theme of invasion that is revealed in the first sentence of this story: "Eveline sat at her window watching the evening invade the avenue". "The odour of dusty cretonne" has invaded her nostrils, fatigue has invaded her spirit, her job "in the Stores" is invading her dignity. These invasions are of minor importance compared with the implicitly sexual invasion - "her father's violence": "he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother's sake".
Next to "the broken harmonium" which signifies the broken harmony of the household, Joyce places a "coloured print of the promises made to the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque". Margaret Mary Alacoque was a seventeenth-century French orphan who was treated harshly by her relatives. She went to a convent where she was often berated for her slowness. Later she had a vision in which God put her hand into his heart and told her that she would be a sacrificial victim because mankind had ignored his love. As a result of this legend, the veneration of the Sacred Heart became a world-wide practice in the Catholic Church.
The legend of Margaret Mary Alacoque provides the mythic template for "Eveline". It is Frank rather than Christ who opens his heart to her and whom she looks towards to "save her". However, Eveline does not have the faith in Frank that her legendary forbear has in Christ. At the moment when she has to make a decision, is is "out of a maze of distress" that "she prayed to God to direct her". But her "duty" is not spelt out to her with the clarity of divine revelation. She finds herself unable to move. She does sacrifice herself to the care of her father but it is with "a nausea in her body" and "her lips in silent fervent prayer" that she does so. Her martyrdom renders her "like a helpless animal", devoid of humanity, "passive", paralysed.
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