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Joyce's Dubliners

Claudine Raynaud

Dead Ends of Desire in Dubliners?

Claudine Raynaud

Texte intégral

Pour comprendre le pourquoi de la dysharmonie, du désaccord de structure qui marquent la sexualité, un terme sert de repère, celui de désir, qui indique déjà qu'au cœur même de l'être parlant il y a une fracture, une béance (Miller, 1987, 81, my emphasis)
Frank was very kind, manly, open hearted. (Joyce, 2000, 31)
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. (Joyce, 2000, 34)

1. Elation, pleasure, excitement

  • 1 The text parallels the city's topography: there are actual dead ends in Dublin, they are called "b (...)

1That desire should end up in a dead end in Dubliners is an impossible premise to uphold since desire finds its way into the text at the expense of some of the characters whose own desires might very well end up in a blind alley, a cul de sac.1 Simply speaking, the quests of most protagonists end up unfulfilled, abruptly arrested at times by death. Death is waiting at the end of desire. The end of "The Dead" can thus be said to be a dead end: "[Gabriel's] soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead" (Joyce, 2000, 225).

  • 2 For a feminist analysis of "Eveline" which insists on women's exploitation and on repetition withi (...)

2Female characters - Eveline, Maria in "Clay", Eliza and Nanny in the first short story of the collection, the Misses Morkan in "The Dead"- more readily come to mind when it is a question of tracking how desire is "lack" never to be fulfilled, in its specific articulation to "jouissance"2 These old or young maids refuse to choose escape and embrace routine as what the female subject ultimately yearns for. In Lacanian terms, "jouissance" is the moment that cannot be told; it is a point that one cannot locate. It is therefore a point in time and a point in space which elude language. It is beyond language:

La jouissance, c'est le moment que je ne peut pas dire Il ne s'agit pas d'un moment paroxystique, tel celui où la parole défaille dans l'orgasme, mais un point que je ne peux localiser. Je peux dire ce qui me fait plaisir, je ne peux pas dire ce qui me fait jouir (Miller, 1987, 83, my emphasis).

3In the progression of the text, the already disquieting "pleasantly confused" which is the way Eveline feels when she listens to Frank sing "about the lass who loves a sailor" (Joyce, 2000, 32) anticipates the young woman's utter impossibility to say anything at the end of the short story. In other words, pleasure is experienced, recorded in Eveline's memories. Yet "jouissance" will rime with the catatonic symptom (silence) which has her transformed into something akin to a "helpless animal", a speechless statue, a blind screen: "She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition" (Joyce, 200 34).

  • 3 On this dis-placement of "Eveline", see Topia, 2000, 443.

4Earlier in the text, when Frank takes her to see the opera The Bohemian Girl, she feels "elated as she [sits] in an unaccustomed part of the theatre with him" (Joyce, 2000, 31-32, my emphasis). This repetition of pleasure and confusion linked to a transgression of her habits anticipates her later withdrawal.3 Ambivalence enters this relationship, as the text both asserts her "excitement" and projects its later denial: "First of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like him" (Joyce, 200, 32, my emphasis). Pleasure is indeed always said to be present only when she stands under the gaze of the others; Eveline is in need of recognition.

  • 4 See Margot Norris's notion of the "self-disputing" text in this volume.

5In the last part of the text, when they are at the station ready to depart, Frank holds her hand and speaks to her: "She knew that he was speaking to her, saying something about the passage over and over". She in fact does not listen to his words and remains silent. "She answered nothing" (Joyce, 2000, 33). At that point only God seems to be invoked to protect her: she speaks to him: she prays. Finally, at the close of the story, she is said to utter an interior "cry" to which only the narrator is privy: "Amid the seas, she sent a cry of anguish" (Joyce, 2000, 34). This sound is withdrawn from the reader. It is not mimetically written in. It is not dramatized. This refusal to inscribe the conventional rendering of her voice is the narrator's parallel to Eveline's "fading" and ultimate erasure: she draws back, pulls back from her lover and from the reader. It is the gap between the narrator's "cry of anguish" and the character's silence which spells the way in which language works in "Eveline", telling and belying at the same time.4 Writing must be oxymoronic. A silent scream.

6"Eveline" shows how desire, as it frays its way into the text, is first a negation of what the reader could take for the character's desire. Eveline's desire is precisely a bifurcation of the subject and a return to the dust she unceasingly cleans up, a gesture of regress and repetition in which her "desire" must ultimately get something back, without end. Garry Leonard points this out by using this sentence as the title of his chapter on "Eveline": "She wondered where on earth all the dust came from" (Leonard, 1993, 95-112). At the end, the cycle of the text pushes the reader to conjecture that she re-turns to this dust, which enters in a strange paronomastic relationship with "lust", a word never used in the text, of course, but always already present under the thin veil of "violence" (her father's),"like", "love" (Frank), and the final failed elopement: a "rape", a rapt, a rapture?

  • 5 Sec Barthes, 1994, 72-73
  • 6 This ending has often been emphasized, linked as it is to mystical jouissance and its religious tr (...)

7This reading points out the paradigmatic reversibility of interpretation in the short story. The oxymoronic quality of writing goes hand in hand with the presence of amphibologies (words which etymologically bear opposite meanings) and more general figures of reversal such as chiasmus.5 For instance, if the "ravishing" does not occur (Eveline does not leave with Frank), another rapture takes its place (she disappears behind or becomes a wall of silence "at the North Wall"). Another subtraction is substituted to the one that the plot was telling, a disappearance or transcendence akin to mystical ex-stasis.6

  • 7 When Eveline thinks that she will leave her job behind, she conjectures that "her place would be f (...)

8One of the early versions of the short story, published in the Irish Homestead in 1904, contained the following sentence when describing the room Eveline sits in: "It was the 'best' room, but it seemed to secrete dust everywhere" (Joyce, 1996, 233). Conversely, Eveline must see Frank "secretly" once her father has found out about their relationship. Secretion and secrecy are mirroring words, evoking the parallel motions of oozing out and retaining, concealing. They owe these meanings to their common etymology, which means to separate. The endless replenishment of the house with dust suggests excess, which is semantically linked to secret. Dust is what Eveline inhales to the point of being full of it, like the room she tries to clean which persists in a mysterious cycle of refilling.7 She symbolically anticipates her own going back to dust, or disappearance and eternal presence in the cycle of dust. Dust to dust.

  • 8 The Italian organ player is chased away by the father who gives him a large amount of money.

9When analyzing the ending of the story, critics have pointed out that what the protagonist finds insufferable seems not so much departure, as sexual intercourse, to which one might assume that Eveline will "prefer" an unprotected life under the threat of the Law of the father (Henke, 1990; Topia, 2000, 457) The regime of endogamy and family affairs prevails over exogamy and exile. Strangers appear as threatening figures in the short story, one of the most exotic and monstrous versions of them being the "terrible Patagonians" of Frank's stories.8

10Within such a configuration of the re-circulation of desire -and given the ultimate non-circulation of woman- the exchange of money is one mode of "traffic" between father and daughter which serves as a model for all the others. Eveline goes out to earn money; she then gives her wages to her father (and so does her brother); her father withdraws this money from her; he both spends it on drink (the cause of his violence). The fluidity of that "circulation" -money is used to buy drink- is doubled up and enlarged by the much more violent fluidity of the seas or the tumult of the ocean at the end of the text. The double movement of being saved from the waters by Frank: "Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her" (Joyce, 2000, 33) and alternately being drowned by him: "He was drawing her into them: he would drown her" (Joyce, 2000, 34) leads her to refuse to escape with him. She thus returns to a much more regulated "circuit".

11Let us retrace the path of monetary exchange in the economy of the story. Eveline uses the money she subtracts from her father to fulfill the needs of the family: she buys food. It is in such down to earth terms that she views her staying at home: "In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life around her" (Joyce, 2000, 30). This description of her home shows how need is articulated to desire. Yet the information gathered throughout the text belies her statement (Topia, 2000, 451). Eveline is unprotected, save by God. The reader can perceive how she hides from herself the evidence of her "desire" to stay with her father, since she does not have all the people she had known all her life around her: her older brother is working outside Dublin and her other brother is dead She indeed contradicts herself a few lines later on: "And now she had nobody to protect her" (Joyce, 2000, 30-31). As far as "shelter" is concerned, the threat of her father's drunken violence turns the house into a prison-house of domestic brutality.

La demande, soit la formulation du besoin, a l'intérêt d'introduire l'ordre symbolique Mais la demande transforme le besoin, l'oblitère, l'opacifie. L'être parlant fait l'expérience d'un assujettisement. Le désir sera l'effet de cette dépendance engendrée par la demande, c'est à dire l'effet du signifiant sur le besoin (Miller, 1987, 81).

12Indeed, the text of "Eveline" presents the range of need, demand, and desire within the household, the hold that the house has on the main protagonist, that her father has on her, in the house. As most critics have noted, she is waiting in a house whose contents she reviews hoping that Frank "[has] a home waiting for her" (Joyce, 2000, 32). She would just be exchanging one patriarchal control for another in the hope of bettering her situation. In the end, the (d)evil you know will be better than the (d)evil you don't.

13Eveline is said to think certain things, but one cannot be sure that she does not know that her fate with Frank might be prostitution, that he is unreliable. Her "romance" with the sailor is belied by all the signs in the text that point towards a knowledge that "she" does not have; or does she? Can the reader ascribe it to the character? In other words, the text's knowledge is assumed to be superior to the character's knowledge, yet the status of the "third person" blurs interpretation. In a masterful article on silence in Dubliners Jean-Michel Rabaté indeed stresses that interpretation is also on the side of silence, it is silenced: "The question of silence is built within the text, prepared and foreseen by the deceptive game it plays with the reader" (Rabaté, 1956, 45).

2. First names, third persons, first names

14The title of the short story is a first name; it is the only short story of the collection to have a woman's first name for its title Lacan insists on the preeminence of the Other (language) on the subject and explains how the infans is spoken about before even being born: "[l'enfant] sera doté d'un prénom sur lequel s'accordent les parents, et d'une manière qui excède le vouloir des uns et des autres, d'un nom propre, etc." (Miller 1987, 61)."Eveline" was/is an agreement among the parents (the now dead mother and the now aging alcoholic father). She is a "she", a nonperson, all the more so since free indirect discourse is used throughout the text. According to Benveniste:

La forme dite de troisième personne comporte bien une indication d'énoncé sur quelqu'un ou sur quelque chose, mais non rapporté à une "personne" spécifique. L'élément variable et proprement "personnel" de ces dénominations fait ici défaut. C'est bien L'absent" des grammairiens arabes. […] La troisième personne n'est pas une "personne"; c'est même la forme verbale qui a pour fonction d'exprimer la non-personne (Benveniste, 1966, 228)

  • 9 Notice again the play on words that associates money (fare) to life It enters in contrast with: "T (...)

15The name Eveline of the title reverberates throughout the short story until the final shout, juxtaposed to the inanimate, the fixedness of her non-gaze. Eveline refuses the departing sailor a farewell and the reader infers that she herself will not "fare" well in the passage of life.9

  • 10 Interestingly, the picnic she remembers takes place at the Hill of Howth. (Joyce, 2000, 32, my emp (...)

16Putting forward the preexistence of language to the subject, the first name is soon picked up in the text by the word "evening", the eve of the night, the moment before departure, a departure so delayed that it will not take place. The text spells Eveline's desire in its own letter and in her proper name, a name echoed by the voices of the others. It is declined as "Miss Hill" (Joyce, 2000, 30) by her employer at the Stores; "she, Eveline" (Joyce, 2000, 30) by herself who then talks about herself in the third person (like James Duffy), "Poppens", her nickname, and finally as the final cry of Frank the sailor: "Eveline! Evvy!" (Joyce, 2000, 34). "Eveline" could also be a pun intended by Joyce to refer to a Victorian pornographic novel on a prostitute called "Eveline". The heroine had sexual intercourse with various members of her family, including fellatio with her father. The "double entendre", which allows a reading of Eveline's relationship with her father as raising the question of father-daughter incest, might have been evident to the readers at the time of publication The connotation also signals, even before the association with the sailor of the story, the possibility of sexual oppression, a duplication in her marriage to Frank of the harsh treatment she endures in the hands of her father, a doubling up of the married life her father and her mother might have lead. Let us not forget that Eveline's last name is "Hill", like the infamous Fanny of John Cleland 's Memoirs10 Eveline's founded fears that she might end up in the white slave trade in Argentina are supported by the father's remark: "I know these sailors chaps" (Joyce, 2000, 32) and by the association between Argentine and the white slave trade at the time. "Going to Buenos Ayres" was slang for taking up a life of prostitution. The name "Eveline" also enters a strange dialogue with the name of the main character of The Bohemian Girl, an opera the sailor she is supposed to leave with takes her to see: "Arline" A story of abduction and substitution, the opera ends in a final revelation where father and daughter are reunited.

  • 11 Similarly, Gretta is also seen by Gabriel as "leaning on the banisters listening to something" m t (...)

17Eveline's "leaning against the window curtains" is also a way of displacing the signifier "Eve-lean". Eveline is twice described as "leaning": "Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne" (Joyce, 2000, 29). Later her passivity ("leaned") turns into action ("leaning"): "She continued to sit by the window, leaning against the dusty curtains, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne" (Joyce, 2000, 32).11 Appropriately, Eveline's leaning against dust turns into a gripping of the railing at the end of the text. "She gripped with both hands at the iron railing" (Joyce, 2000, 34) is repeated with a slight yet meaningful alteration, the space of metonymy and double entendre: "Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy" (Joyce, 2000, 34). This frenzied grip of the "iron" brings the reader mentally back to the father's blackthorn "stick" of the beginning of the story: "He used to stop the children's play and chase them out of the field when the mother was still alive: Her father used to hunt them in out of the field with his blackthorn stick" (Joyce, 2000, 29, my emphasis).

  • 12 "Little Keog used to keep nix and call them out when he saw her father coming" (Joyce, 2000, 5)
  • 13 In "A Painful Case" Mrs Sinico, crosses the line and dies: "The evidence showed that the deceased (...)
  • 14 In Ulysses, Stephen admits filiation to Eve: "our grandam, which we are linked up with by successi (...)

18The possibility of sexual innuendoes becomes an evidence when her lover calls her name and shouts to her to come and follow him. Eveline does not come.12 The word then strangely echoes the fact that the father "had not 'gone' for her, like he used to for Harry and Ernest, because she was a girl; but lately he had began to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother's sake" (Joyce, 2000, 30, my emphasis) This sentence must be read literally. If one goes back to the first version, Joyce had written a less ambiguous sentence which did not reproduce the father's words: "Latterly he had begun to threaten her saying what he would do if it were not for her dead mother's sake" (Joyce, 1996, 234, my emphasis). Ambiguity has been willingly introduced into the text by the omission of the negation that allows a double and contradictory reading of the sentence. Falling back under the law of the father with its incestuous overtones, Eveline resists her lover's call. Frank's words could be read as the appeal for an attempt at the fulfillment of sexual desire "Come" is repeated twice, dramatized as direct speech. Instead, the text inscribes paralysis as "jouissance". She answers by total mis-recognition. Eveline does not cross the line.13 She does not go "beyond the barrier" (Joyce, 2000, 34) where Frank finds himself at the end of the text. It is not farfetched to conjecture that this line divides the dreamed-up vision of her "new home in a distant country" (30) from the realization that sexual intercourse must and shall take place beyond that line. The pun on her name also includes the line that links her from the first woman, the mother of us all, Eve, to the other women. Indeed, the position of Eveline's mother in relation to Eveline's own role as woman is paramount in an understanding of the text.14

19As her names spells it, Eveline is destined to leave ("to go away" is twice doubled as "to leave her home" [Joyce, 2000, 29, 30]). Yet Eveline's problem is that she does not look "lively", another paronomasia of her name, as Miss Gavan from the Stores where she works insists: "'Miss Hill, don't you see that these ladies are waiting? - Look lively, Miss Hill, please" (Joyce, 2000, 30). She is passive, lifeless. Instead of rushing, of waiting on her waiting clients, Eveline is delaying. Time is running out and Eveline's only "rushing" takes place when she must go back home after having bought a load of provisions for the household. She is also deferring the moment of decision, pondering her own desire: "She tried to weigh each side of the question" (Joyce, 2000, 30). She is split. It is the narrator who informs the reader that "her time is running out", thus giving the reader a vantage-point on the character's attitude. Yet Eveline still leans and ponders, weighs and waits, caught between reminiscences which go back as far as her own mother's death, the promise she made her on her deathbed, and a cliché anticipation of her life with Frank, whose "Frankness" is always under suspicion (Topia, 2000, 450).

20Eveline's fiancé is also a third person, a non-person in Benveniste's terms. Frank is first called a "chap" or a "fellow" when Eveline reflects on what people will say about her at work. Like Eveline, Frank is caught in indirect discourse, except of course for the calls at the end of the text. His status is uncertain; he does not exist outside of the voices of the others, the inferred gossip or the father's words: "I know these sailors chaps" (32) and the final call from the boat: "He was shouted at to go on" (Joyce, 2000, 34). The only "I" in the text is that of the father, uttering the law of male promiscuity, retaining Eveline under the "spell" of possible incest as I have suggested earlier on.

21It is evident to the reader that Eveline's life is one of abuse; a repetition of her mother's life of "commonplace sacrifices", yet the text always already betrays and belies her desire to escape. "But now that she was about to leave [this life], she did not find it totally undesirable" (Joyce, 2000, 31). The more she reflects, the more that life which she sums up for the reader, and supposedly for herself, as she weighs the pros and cons, appçars undesirable to the reader, but appeals to her more and more as the text progresses Again, taking this sentence literally, one might read into it the Lacanian defintion of woman as not whole ("pas toute": "not" […] totally") linked to woman's desire. Consequently, it is that life which she will settle for at the end of the text, that life which she will be driven back to, to which she will hang on. A key sentence about her father: "He would miss her" (Joyce, 2000, 32) gradually unveils the opposite statement: "She would miss him" and "Miss Hill" returns to her father.

22In short, the text discloses Eveline's desire as it is upheld by the father's promise of incest: "only for her dead mother's sake". Hers is a case of the daughter's seduction in the sense that she cannot bring herself to leave the father bound as she is by the mother's promise which she "fulfills" A substitute mother, she takes care of the material management of the household and of the children left to her "charge" (another version of the weighing, the pondering of the text). Yet this incest is also an unfulfilled promise on the part of the father; it will not take place. The undecidability of how one must read the sentence "only for her dead mother's sake" is the heart of the text as well as the father s threat: "what he would do to her", a euphemism which might hide sexual intercourse, or might not, but surely points to male violence.

23Jane Gallop's cunning re-reading of Irigaray's Speculum, itself a critique of Freud's theory, might help here uncover the ambivalence of desire in its relationship to incest which lies at the heart ot the short story. The seduction theory is, as everybody knows, central to Freud's theory; it is the crux of the Oedipus complex. I quote Gallop:

The seduction by the father is not only a mere fantasy, but its is the manifestation of a typical complex, one that is supposed to be universal, and therefore the law of Freudian theory. (…) we read that the Oedipus complex, the incest taboo, the law forbidding intercourse between father and daughter, covers over a seduction, masks it so that it goes unrecognized. (Gallop, 1982, 75)

  • 15 Jane Gallop articulates incest and the Name (Nom/non) of the father as follows: "The father gives (...)

24What must be articulated is the law of the father in relationship to his desire, a desire that he covers up with his law.15 Eveline Hill is her father's daughter. Although her reflections have started to stress his violence -when she was a child, and more recently, his drinking bouts and her growing fears- she gradually makes excuses for his behavior As times runs out" and as the text unfolds, she sees him in a more favorable light: "Sometimes he could be very nice" (Joyce, 2000, 32).

3. Life, death and melancholy

  • 16 The word "house" is repeated five times in the first nine lines; the word house and home are oppos (...)

25In the darkening room, Eveline's reviews the objects from which"[…] she had never dreamed of being divided" (Joyce, 2000, ), taking stock of what she will leave behind. Divided between the past and the future, Eveline's thoughts are of "houses" and "home", a dichotomy which runs through the text, with at its center the word "heart".16 "Heart" is Frank's last name and, aptly, it hides a play on "hearth", which is precisely what distinguishes a home from a house. The promise that she had made to her mother stresses this opposition. The sentence "to keep the home together as long as she could" (Joyce, 2000, 33) stands in stark contrast to the drab reality of "keeping the house together" (Joyce, 2000, 31) which implies "hard work" both outside and inside the house.

26Her childhood memories, which constitute the first flashback in the story, are of a place which is no more, a field which has disappeared because of building investment, a pre-figuration of the "weight" that "houses" have in the story. Her promise to her mother was "to keep the home together", an impossible task from the start. Eveline is divided, a line runs through/ from her name, in opposition to the gathering implied by "to keep together". The division "Eve-line" also echoes the sea voyages, ocean lines (cf. the Allan line in the text). She exemplifies the split subject whose very scission is constitutive of desire. Will she stay? Will she leave? Her failure to liberate herself is inscribed in the story from the start. She is a melancholy subject ("she listened to that melancholy air of Italy" [Joyce 2000, 33]), attached to dust, caught in the ambivalence between what she states: "People would treat her with respect. She would not be treated as her mother had been" (Joyce, 2000, 30) and what can be inferred from the text.

  • 17 Incidentally, the name of the country of destination redoubles her lather's pecuniary preoccupatio (...)

27The assimilation to her mother that runs through the story has an uncanny (unheimlich) presence. The mother's death pervades the text, as the dust invades the house, under the guise of other deaths, which crop up in the text. "Her mother was dead" (Joyce, 2000, 29). This first statement is indeed echoed by other deaths, departures, and returns: "The Waters had gone back to England" (Joyce, 2000), a strange statement, if taken literally, and in the perspective of the sea voyage, a passage which Eveline will never make to Liverpool, and beyond to Argentina.17 If the reader learns that one of her childhood friends is dead early in the text, he/she will only be aware in passing that the elder brother, the one “she was most fond of”, is also dead. I have already noted how her name paronomastically comes up as "lively" (what she is not). When she remembers events in her life, the dividing line seems to be the death of her mother: "and besides, her mother was alive" (Joyce, 2000, 29). Eveline does not look lively; Eveline looks dead, loves dust.

  • 18 Another analysis which explains the illocutory intricacies and the subject positions entailed by t (...)

28Yet the mother is both the counter-model and the model. In the triangular relationship mother-father-child, the father is merged with the mother at several points in the text. She assimilates the father to the mother in her two memories of him. In the first one, Eveline is sick, she is in bed, the mother is dead. At that point, her father reads her ghost stories and feeds her. He takes on the role of the mother and this ambivalent "father/mother" figure assumes a spectral dimension. In the same way, she later pictures her mother on her sick bed in her memory of her The ghost of the mother -the mother as ghost- haunts the story. Dead, she then comes back to haunt her daughter with words whose opacity spells horror, nonsense and the possibility of the ambivalence of sexual pleasure: "The end of pleasure is pain". She is also the one who "binds" the daughter.18

29The second memory of her father in a favorable light is the spectral enactment of a cross-dressing. The father plays at being the mother, anticipating her death and exposing womanliness as "masquerade". With her bonnet on, the father's playing at being the mother barely hides the wolf of the children's tale: "She remembered her father putting on her mother's bonnet to make the children laugh" (Joyce, 2000, 32). The mother is always already dead in this Oedipal drama, this desire to be with the father. Rather than simply thinking that Eveline is caught in a female chain of domestic enslavement, her memories in their own complex articulation reveal the mother as obstacle to the daughter's desire, an obstacle that has been removed by her death.

30Eveline's quandary is made evident in the interior monologue where Frank's love is seen as antithetical to life: "Escape. She must escape. Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy?" (Joyce, 2000, 33). The dead mother as specter gives room to the imagined lover as birthing her, giving her life. The "But" of the following sentence is antithetical with her train of thoughts. As early as this sentence "love" is seen as the opposite of "life". To her lover's injunction to come, Eveline finally answers: "No No No. It was impossible" (Joyce, 2000, 33). The vision of the mother had put a "spell on the very quick of her being". Again, this sentence must be read literally. Her memory of her mother kills her, deprives her of her life force. It is also what anticipates the stillness to come. The "quick", the life principle, is arrested, put under "spell". It foretells the impenetrable "white face" that she puts on at the end expressionless. Eveline falls back into the a-nonymity of the text. Her sudden transformation into a statue is a sign of jouissance that is one with paralysis:

La jouissance est un mot pour dire l'expérience d'éprouver une tension intolérable mélange d'ivresse et d'étrangeté. la jouissance est l'état énergétique que nous vivons dans des circonstances limites, dans les situations de rupture au moment où l'on est à même de franchir un cap, d'assumer un défi, d'affronter une crise exceptionnelle, parfois douloureuse. (Nasio, 1994, 55-56)

4. Ab-jection, anguish, "anchoress?"

  • 19 Once again, my reading of the text comes up against w hat has been rew ritten by Joyce, added in A (...)

31In Eveline's home, the homely is gradually unveiled as sharing in the uncanny, das Unheimliche. The familiarity of the house is unsettled by the fact that the familiar objects are shown to be unfamiliar to Eveline Much has been made by the critics of the fact that she does not know the name of her father's friend, the one who is "down under" and whose yellowing photograph she regularly dusts. The other object mentioned in the list is the "broken harmonium" (Joyce, 2000, 30). These small details which introduce incongruity in the text gradually take on momentous proportions and culminate with the return of the mother's ghost. That part of unknown -these gaps- eventually find their paroxystic expression in abjection: Eveline's utter impossibility of “[exploring] another life with Frank” (Joyce, 2000, 31). As critics have remarked, the female body is present through hints at its animal nature. At the beginning of the story Eveline inhales dust through her "nostrils" (Joyce 2000, 29) and she is pictured at the end as behaving "like a helpless animal" (Joyce, 2000, 34). Her body betrays symptoms of her neurosis: her father's increasing violence had given her "palpitations", which is once again a later addition to the story.19 Her memories bring up the terrifying sounds of the "nonsense" words her mother uttered on her deathbed: "Derevaun Sharaun! Derevaun Sharaun!" It makes her "tremble" with terror. Summoned and swallowed by her mother's voice, she then sees escape as her only way out.

32The expected moment of abjection is paradoxically denied by her inhaling dust with morbid relish: "but she continued to sit by the window leaning her head against the window curtains inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne" (Joyce, 2000, 32). It is when she is given the choice of leaving, of no longer inhaling this dust, that Eveline experiences nausea: "Her distress awoke a nausea in her body" (Joyce , 2000, 34). She confronts ab-jection, what she cannot take in, the step she cannot take and that her body transforms into what the French would call "haut-le-cœur". her heart leaps up in her throat. Kristeva makes the following difference between object and abject in relation to the subject:

De l'objet, l'abject, n'a qu'une qualité - celle de s'opposer à je. Mais si l'objet, en s'opposant m'équilibre dans la trame fragile d'un désir de sens qui, en fait m'homologue indéfiniment à lui, au contraire, l'abject, objet chu est radiculament exclu et me tire là où le sens s'effondre. (Kristeva, 1980, 9)

33She utters a cry of anguish and this anguish is in psychoanalytical terms a confrontation with her phantasm:

C'est l'angoisse qui signe l'approche de la jouissance en tant qu'opposée au désir Elle est ce qui s'empare du sujet quant il est amené à s'interroger sur ce que lui veut l'Autre. […] Pour un sujet, la rencontre de l'autre est donc singulièrement limitée par le tournage en rond qu'assurent les rails du fantasme. Quelques fois l'imprévu fait éruption, le fantasme ne suffit plus à assurer les retrouvailles du sujet avec lui-même et c'est l'angoisse et, à l'occasion, le déclenchement clinique de la névrose, l'apparition de symptômes perturbant le sujet lui-même (Miller, 1987, 69).

  • 20 This intertextuality would require a long development. Having lost his wife, Lot was then forced t (...)

34Be it abjection (nausea) or anguish, or both concurrently, Eveline is transfixed Her stone-like fixity, a symptom of her inability to enact the escape she had thought possible links her to mythic female figures, such as Lot's wife and Eurydice: the one who looked back towards Sodom and Gomorrah and was transformed in a pillar of salt or the one who was also transformed into a statue precisely because the loved one looked back on her. Beyond the intricacies of the working of the biblical intertext or the myth of Orpheus with the figure of Eveline in Joyce's story, Eveline's immobility literally means that she cannot be moved.20 She becomes a figure of "la demeurée", this woman enclosed in her own craziness (like her mother), retarded, "delayed". In Anne Juranville's essay, La Femme et la mélancholie, the philosopher goes on to assert that there exits a specific symptom of moving" (houses) linked to a refusal of the break between to have a body and to be a body:

S'il existe une pathologie du déménagement, ellle tient au rejet de la coupure du passage de l'être un corps à avoir un corps, comportant un reste, un excédent qui est toujours un corps. Ombre sans figure et sans nom, la laissée-pour-compte de l'histoire, la demeurée se tient silencieusement sur la scène du monde (Juranville 1993, 228).

  • 21 Anchoress is fernale tor anchorite: “Later this way of lite was recognized and ordered according t (...)

35Eveline is the one who defers and re-mains, "demeure", who will never leave. Joyce's addition of the promises to The Blessed Mary Magdalene Alacoque to the earlier version, and the numerous religious connotations of the text, make the protagonist also share certain characteristics with the "anchoress". The anchorite withdraws from the world, if one follows the Greek etymology of the word, to live a life of silence, prayer and mortification. She is separated from the outside world and she might be walled-in. Thus this young woman from Dublin is a modern variation of the virgin selected in villages to be devoted to the cult of a saint and whose cell was built into or attached to the parish church, following the orders of the bishop in the later Middle Ages.21

36Earlier on, Eveline had held "on her lap" two letters, one to her father, one to her brother. The narrator states: "The white of two letters on her lap grew indistinct" (Joyce, 2000, 32). A literal reading, a reading to the letter, turns this sentence into an impossible statement: white letters, the fading letters of a woman These letters which disappear to the reader's mind's eye will remain unsent. Their fading in the darkened room announces the end of the text we are reading: the end of writing, the erasure of the daughter's letter(s).


Works Cited

Aubert, Jacques, ed., 1987 Joyce avec Lacan. Navarin.

Cross and Livingstone eds. 1997. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press

Barthes, Roland, 1994. Roland Barthes by Roland Rarthes. Trans Richard Howrad. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Benveniste, Emile. 1966. Problèmes de linguistique générale. Paris: Gallimard, NRF.

Joyce, James, 2000. Dubliners. [1992] Ed. Terence Brown. London: Penguin Classics.

———, 1996. Dubliners Ed. Robert Scholes and A .Walton Litz. Viking Critical Edition.

———, 1984. Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition. Ed. Hans Gabler, New York and London: Garland Publishing.

Juranville, Anne, 1993. La Femme et la mélancholie. Paris: Puf.

Gallop, Jane, 1982. The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Henke, Suzette Α., 1990. James Joyce and the Politics of Desire. London Routledge.

Leonard, Garry, 1993. Reading Dubliners Again. Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press.

Miller, Gérard 1987. Lacan Bordas

Nasio, J-D, 1994. Cinq leçons sur Ja théorie de Jacques Lacan. Payot

Scott, Bonnie Kirne, 1987. James Joyce. Brighton: The HarvesterPress.

Topia, André, 2000. “'Eveline': La porosité des frontières” Etudes Anglaises 53-4: 442-460.


1 The text parallels the city's topography: there are actual dead ends in Dublin, they are called "blinds": culs de sac or blind alleys (Joyce, 2000, 251, note 3).

2 For a feminist analysis of "Eveline" which insists on women's exploitation and on repetition within the parameters of patriarchal oppression, see Henke, 1990.

3 On this dis-placement of "Eveline", see Topia, 2000, 443.

4 See Margot Norris's notion of the "self-disputing" text in this volume.

5 Sec Barthes, 1994, 72-73

6 This ending has often been emphasized, linked as it is to mystical jouissance and its religious tradition (Samt John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila). In the text, the link is established with the mention of the mystic The Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. This element is a later addition as Scholes remarks: "This saint paralysed herself with self-inflicted torture but was cured miraculously when she vowed to dedicate herself to a holy life" (Joyce, 1996, 134).

7 When Eveline thinks that she will leave her job behind, she conjectures that "her place would be filled up by advertisement" (Joyce, 2000, 30 ). No sense of hollowness, constant filling up.

8 The Italian organ player is chased away by the father who gives him a large amount of money.

9 Notice again the play on words that associates money (fare) to life It enters in contrast with: "Their passage had been booked" (Joyce, 2000, 33).

10 Interestingly, the picnic she remembers takes place at the Hill of Howth. (Joyce, 2000, 32, my emphasis).

11 Similarly, Gretta is also seen by Gabriel as "leaning on the banisters listening to something" m the famous scene, in the gloom of the hall (Joyce, 2000, 211).

12 "Little Keog used to keep nix and call them out when he saw her father coming" (Joyce, 2000, 5)

13 In "A Painful Case" Mrs Sinico, crosses the line and dies: "The evidence showed that the deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked down by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingston" (Joyce, 200, 109, my emphasis).

14 In Ulysses, Stephen admits filiation to Eve: "our grandam, which we are linked up with by successive anastomasis of navel cords" (Joyce, 1986,14:292-301).. Anastomasis suggests the fluid communication between individuals, the link between females, but also the flow of semen from male to female (Scott, 1987, 118).

15 Jane Gallop articulates incest and the Name (Nom/non) of the father as follows: "The father gives his daughter his law and protects himself from her desire for his body , protects himself from his body. For it is only the law -not the body -which constitutes him as a patriarch. Paternity is not corporeally evident. But patriarchy compensates for that with the law which marks each child with the father's name as his exclusiv e property” (Gallop, 1982, 77).

16 The word "house" is repeated five times in the first nine lines; the word house and home are opposed in the following sentence: The man out of the last house passed on his way home" (29) as well as throughout the text. The word "air" ("ayres") is taken up by the Italian "air" she hears outside in the street and which will trigger the fundamental memory of her mother's death.

17 Incidentally, the name of the country of destination redoubles her lather's pecuniary preoccupation and enters into phonetic echo with her own. Just as the city of "Buenos Ayres" stands both in sarcastic contrast to Eveline's complacent and sickly pleasurable inhalation of dust and in plural opposition to singular "Eire", Ireland, the country of non-departure. Joyce has talked about the odour which pervades his stories: " It is not my fault that the odour of ashpit and old weeds and offal hangs around my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass" (Joyce, 1996. 63- 4)

18 Another analysis which explains the illocutory intricacies and the subject positions entailed by the promise, the prayer and the vow could constitute a further development to this approach to the story.

19 Once again, my reading of the text comes up against w hat has been rew ritten by Joyce, added in As if my reading was following the textual genesis of the short story which thus directs interpretation, guides it. (Joyce, 1996, 233-235).

20 This intertextuality would require a long development. Having lost his wife, Lot was then forced to sleep with his daughters under the influence of wine. Another fruitful direction might be the biblical equation of dust and seed: “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Gn. 13: 16).

21 Anchoress is fernale tor anchorite: “Later this way of lite was recognized and ordered according to rules by the Church, the bishop himself enclosing the anchorite who was thenceforward confined w ithin the walls of his cell” (Cross, 1997, 59).

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2001

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