Oh father, father


Virginia Woolf, in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown“, advocates the centrality of the character in modern novel, aiming at representing its complexity, incoherence, vulnerability: a”flesh and blood” character rather than a puppet in the hand of its maker. On this purpose a new kind of psychological realism was required to make that puppet fresh and alive, hence the chronological time sequence of narration was dismissed to experiment a new psychological perception of time which proved to be more suitable to represent the consciousness of the character. A clear product of this technique is Joyce‘s Eveline from Dubliners. Eveline is a young girl on nineteen at a crucial moment of her life: she is about to leave her family to go with her lover to Buenos Aires, but she is paralyzed by the burden of doubt and responsabilities.For two third of the story she is stuck at one window pondering about her past, present and future. Following her thoughts we share her fears, uncertainties but at the same time we try to put together the pieces of her life whenever the important figures of her world show up in her mind. But how long had she been staying at the window lost in her thoughts?  Chronologically only eleven words:”She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue“; psychologically much more. We can notice the alliteration of the “w” at the first part of the sentence and the alliteration of the “v” in the second one, thus pointing out the passage from day to night . This passage is also stressed by the sound of the vowels which grow darker and darker word after word. When “she sat” there was still daylight but at “avenue” it was night. They key word of this sentence from a psychological point of view is “invade“: that is the night she had planned to go, but nothing makes us think of it as a happy moment, it’s an invasion: a violence on her true self. Even her concerns about her father seem to weak her determination to leave. But  why? Is he a caring, loving  kind of  father? Nothing of  kind, or better, we don’t know. The first time we bump into him in one of Eveline’s thoughts, he has a “blackthorn stick” in his hand, thus evoking a sense of fear ( black) and danger (thorn): he must be a violent man. Our intuition seems to be legitimized when she tells about his continuous threats that have worn her out giving her also “palpitations“, even because now she is alone, as her mother had died, and has nobody to defend her. But this father figure refuses to be entrapped in the stereotype of the violent man. In fact we are puzzled as she remembers some episodes of her life when his father appears to be a different kind of man: caring, tender even funny sometimes. Besides he is aging and is growing weak. Therefore whenever she feels like going, her minds evokes sad memories as to confirm the rightness of her choice, but when she feels strong enough to make her first step toward a different or better future, her determination is undermined by the opposite perception of her father’s nature. Being unable to manage the different forces of her soul, she will remain, defeated, with her father.