A Seething Pit of Assumptions


Culture has distinctive ways of imbuing situations, people, or things with particular pre-conceived notions. These notions are called “Binary Assumptions.” Binary Assumptions are rampant in human culture, so deeply laden that it is incredibly easy for one to not ever understand a situation completely because of these pre-conceived ideas, causing one to omit thorough investigation and blindly use the assumptions to delegate their thoughts.   In literature, considering it is generally a reliable reflection of a particular culture at any given time, we find binary assumptions inevitably within the context. James Joyce’s moving piece “Eveline” is a work of art that host definitively distinct archetypal ideas that are integral elements of the piece; their the passages that breathe meaning and longevity into the work.

            The initial and continual binary assumption that is found in “Eveline” is the dual nature of mother and father, masculine and feminine, good and evil. Joyce deeply sows an archetypal seed early within this text by creating a figure that is more or less evil. Eveline’s father is in the simplest of terms, bad.  “Even now, though she was over nineteen, she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father's violence,” the progression of her father’s character being bad is actually contrary to general family relations outcomes. It is when people are younger and are akin to doing “bad” things that they are to fear their parents, not when they are nine-teen years of age. Joyce builds the relationship between Eveline and her father to be a negative one even by simply explaining her chores. Eveline dusted furniture “for years” and was so used to it that she never thought she would leave her home. It has a definitively Cinderella-esque portrayal and opening with Eveline staring out the window, that being a symbol of desire to experience a life not of her own, solidifies the readers idea of Eveline being the victim to a tyrannical patriarchal home.

            The good versus evil binary assumption is perpetuated by the death of the mother and all of the things that were destined to change once she was gone. Joyce constructs the mother as the protective barrier of pure energy that keeps the beast, the father, at bay. “Her father was not so bad then; and besides, her mother was alive,” Joyce plays feeds the reader evidence her that the mother was this benevolent force while the father was a festering blister waiting to burst once the mother was out of the picture. This however, is not necessarily the case, things were probably just as bad or Eveline’s father was generally the same when she was younger; she has just had years of accumulation and thought and the issues or monotony of her life has caused everything to become  progressively worse in her mind. Of course, if Eveline were a true character, the things described in the text could be true, but because this is a work of fiction and Joyce is applying ideas that are incredibly influence by ideas that have been a part of the human condition since the beginning, one must remember that “nothing expressed in language is absolutely true.”

            The relationship between Eveline and Frank is a glaring binary assumption of female and male romantic relations. Joyce creates Frank as this character with all these accomplishments and depth while Eveline is this girl who is trapped in her own life, longing for something different. Perhaps because of the time period it would have been highly unlikely for Eveline, a young woman, to be too accomplished at anything because of society; however, it is apparent through this text that Eveline is dependent on Frank, a man, to have a good life. “She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very kind, manly, open-hearted. She was to go away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres where he had a home waiting for her,” Eveline needs this man to have a life that always wanted instead of finding a way to do it herself.

            James Joyce’s “Eveline,” is a piece that will remain a classic primarily because of the archetypal and binary assumption merit. It is those elements of literature that keep pieces from vanishing with time; the archetypes translate over culture and time, and any story that one has read has already been told. It is a rope of psychotic thread that keeps all humans connected on some intellectual plane where we can all connect shedding our differences and embracing our archetypes.

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