“Eveline” by James Joyce & “The Day It Happened” by Rosario Morales
Eveline by James Joyce
“Eveline” is a short story by James Joyce. It is the story of a nineteen year old girl called Eveline, who is seated at a window in her father’s house, as she absentmindedly stares at the goings-on in the street outside, in the light of the evening, all the while in her own thoughts, pondering deeply upon a very important decision that she is supposed to make in a very short time, a decision that will shape her entire future life. It is a story of a young girl who is confused as to what to choose, in a dilemma, torn deciding between two equally difficult and unpleasant choices – one, to leave her father’s house and to run away, with the young sailor who has been courting her for some time now, to a distant city called Buenos Ayres, of which she knows nothing about, to start out her adult life anew; or two, to remain behind in a life that holds no future promise for her, yet is a source of steadiness and mixed comfort to her, a place where she has food and shelter, where she is surrounded by people and objects familiar to her, with the presence of a job and the little family she still remains with.
As she mulls over these two options, she compares her current situation with what awaits her if she decides to leave. At home her father is harsh to her, her mother and her elder brother are dead, her boss at the store she works in has a grudge against her, she has to spend all her earnings on her family’s upkeep, and she has to work hard to take care of her younger siblings who have been left in her responsibility. On the other hand there is Frank, the kind and manly sailor whom she has been dating for a while now. Frank has promised to marry her and take her to live with him in his home in Buenos Ayres. She has been charmed by Frank, who sees her home every evening from work, who has taken her to the theater, who sings to her a song that makes her feel pleasantly confused, who calls her Poppens out of fun, and who entertains her with stories of his journeys through faraway countries. At one point in her deliberation she suddenly feels that she has to escape, and that Frank will save her and make her happy, and so she goes off to the station, but when the time comes to board the ship she falters, still unsure of what action to take, and her emotions reverse as she panics, and now she feels that Frank will drown her, so in the final moment she fails to follow him onto the boat despite him calling out to her to do so, and instead remains behind.
Eveline’s decision not to leave with Frank was a sensible decision. She had known him only for a short while. He had promised to marry her but she had no way of confirming his real intentions. She actually knew very little about him, only what he had told her through his tales, which could have been lies for all she knew. She also had no idea what really awaited her in Buenos Ayres. Her decision to remain behind was right; “Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t”.
The Day it Happened by Rosario Morales
“The Day it Happened” is a short story by Rosario Morales about a Hispanic woman called Josie who, when she realizes she is pregnant, and fearing for the life of her unborn child, decides unanimously and bravely to leave her abusive and cruel husband, called Ramon, to whom she has only recently been wedded. This is a story that is captured and narrated by a young girl who is a neighbor to the soon-to-be mother. She narrates how Josie, after consultations with her friends, decides to pack up and leave Ramon once and for all before things get out of hand at their matrimonial home. Josie and Ramon have been married only 6 months, but in this short period of time all their neighbors in their apartment building seem to be aware of the mistreatment Josie is suffering at the hands of Ramon.
On the fateful day, the neighbors have mixed reactions to Josie’s decision but it appears that overall they are willing to support her decision to desert her husband. Josie has been suffering both physical and emotional abuse from her husband for a few months now, but her reason for leaving him at this moment is that she fears for the life of the baby she is carrying. She however, decides to stay a while to give her final goodbyes to her husband. It’s almost five, on a Saturday, and her husband is due home at any moment. When he finally comes home, and realizes he is going to be left alone, with no wife or child, he pleads with Josie not to leave him, but in vain. It appears Josie still loves him but she nonetheless sticks to her decision and with the help of her neighbors, she leaves him.
Josie’s decision was a wise one. Had she stayed, her husband, being the bully that he was, would have continued beating her. She would have ended up with a miscarriage for sure and very possibly with serious injuries to her own self that would have resulted eventually in her premature death. Ramon would never have changed and Josie and her baby were better off without him.