Eveline examines the life a young woman trapped by society and manipulated by her family. Her brother has escaped his family of origin to found his own family, leaving Eveline behind with her widowed father to cook, clean, and dust. She meets a young man, Frank, who promises her a lifetime of happiness with him in Buenos Aires. The dreams of a lifetime open in front of her. Will she find the courage to leave her father’s home and make a life for herself? Will she escape the overwhelming influence of her environment on her own hopes and aspirations?
In “Eveline,” we have themes of responsibility, escape, guilt, paralysis and the inability to let go. Eveline, as a character, is reminiscent of women’s difficulty in dealing with male dominance. Eveline has a major decision to make. She is torn between staying at home and looking after her father and younger siblings or moving to Argentina (escaping) with Frank, despite it being clear that Eveline’s father is an abusive, controlling and domineering man, who spends a lot of time drinking.
Her final scene, when Frank comes for her, is reminiscent of The Heiress by Henry James. Will she manage to leave an abusive father? Is Frank really the man who would save her from her social inequality?
From the Play
Eveline: A twenty-two year old single woman.
Frank: Her boyfriend approximately twenty-eight years old.
Harry: Eveline’s brother, approximately twenty-nine years old.
Mr. Hill: Eveline’s father, in his early sixties.
The Place: Dublin
The Time: The 1920’s.
The Scene: The play takes place during the last decade of the nineteenth century in Dublin, Ireland, The action takes place in the front room or parlor. The furnishings have an air of frayed gentility. There is a sideboard against the main wall. Hanging over it is a large ornate crucifix. On the right wall there are some religious prints and a photograph of a nondescript priest. Up front are two or three stuffed chairs and a couch. The furnishings, in general, are of a somber hue. On the left wall is the front door or entrance. On either side of the door are small windows on which hang drab curtains. On the end of the main wall is an opening that leads up to the second floor. The time of day is early twilight on a dreary late autumn Saturday. On one of the chairs is a woman’s dark overcoat. Mid-stage are two suitcases.
From the Play:
Evie: You’re just trying to frighten me. I’m leaving with him tonight and that’s final.
Mr. Hill: Leaving? Tonight?
Evie: That’s what I wanted to tell you. I was going to leave you a letter, but I just couldn’t do that to you
.Mr. Hill: You’re taking leave of your senses; that’s what you’re doing. A good Catholic girl running off and bringing shame on herself and her father. And what will I tell your little sister and brother? That their sister has gone mad?
Evie: I’ve taken care of that. They’ll move in with Harry. He . . .
Mr. Hill: (Interrupting her and changing his tone. He becomes more sympathetic here.) And what will I tell our friend and the people I work with? That you lost your mind over a man? The first man who came your way? Evie, you have nothing to worry about. In time, you’ll find a husband, a decent and upright man who’ll love you and provide for you when I’m no longer here. A pretty girl like you doesn’t have to worry. And you’ll be a good catch. You know how to run a house, cook and clean, take care of children. Why any young man would be a grateful for such a capable wife.
Evie: (Surprised) Pretty? You never called me pretty before.
Mr. Hill: Oh, yes, pretty. Yes, I guess you are. There are a lot of things I never said, Evie. But I felt them deeply.
Evie: If you thought I was pretty, you could have said so.
Mr. Hill: (Making it up as he goes along) I’m a hard man. Words don’t come easy to me.
Evie: (Not convinced) You could have tried.
Mr. Hill: I thought calling you pretty would turn your head. But you are pretty, darling. You’re the image of your ma.