Eveline By James Joyce and Samphire by Patrick O’Brian
Both of these stories tell of women wanting to break away from dominating male influences in their lives. Eveline is fed up of working at home and of looking after her father where as Molly wants a life away from Lacy. But at the end of each story, neither woman is nearer to her goal of a new life. The start of “Eveline” is very descriptive and gives the reader the impression of her life so far. Although Eveline works around the house, “in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne”. She was tired” and these three words set the tone of the story for the reader.
In contrast, “Samphire” opens with the uplifting white cliffs and the vicious sea. “The wind … brought the salt tang of the spray on their lips”. This opening is also very descriptive but in a different way to “Eveline” – the sheer power of nature and the quiet and simple home. But both of these openings are effective in setting the scene for the story. Eveline lives at home with her father as “her brothers and sisters were all grown up, her mother was dead.
This last fact obviously had a huge effect on Eveline and her father, possibly making her father become violent, “she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence”. And now Eveline wants “to go away like the others, to leave her home. ” Molly’s problems or intentions about what she wants to do are not known about until near to the end. It is possible though to guess at what she is irritated about – her husband Lacey.
“He had a high, rather unmasculine voice, and he emphasized his words. He is very persistent, “three times he pointed it out”; patronising, “how he had even to be a little firm”; childish, “wagging his finger”; trying to be humorous, “made a joke about the shop being a house of ill-fume; but the tobacconist did not understand”; not attractive, “the thin, fluffy hair that covered his baldness”, and extremely image conscious, “and how the people would stare when they brought it back”. But it wasn’t all easy for Eveline either. She had to put up with her father who said that “she used to squander the money” and “that she had no head”.
She had “hard work to keep the house together” and overall it was ” a hard life”. But Frank was a totally different person, “very kind, manly, open hearted” compared to her violent father. Her relationship with Frank was going fine until “her father found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say to him. ” This is because he relies on her and that he doesn’t want to lose. There is also the possibility that he is quite a stubborn man and that Frank is intruding on his relationship with his daughter.
Throughout the whole story, there is the doubt or guilt factor that is preventing Eveline from leaving and going off to Buenos Aires with Frank. “Now she was about to leave it (her life) she did not find it a wholly undesirable life”; “her time was running out”, and that “her father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her”. Then near to the bottom of the second page come the crucial facts about why she does not want to leave home: the promise to her dying mother, “her promise to keep the home together as long as she could”.
The plot of “Samphire” is that Lacey sees “a clump of samphire” on the edge of a cliff and is determined for Molly to see it. Once she has seen it, there is a great satisfaction from Lacey as he knows that Molly is scared of heights, “heights terrified her, always had”, but he still forces her to look at the plant. The next day Molly “said she would like to see the samphire again” much to the joy of Lacy. She obviously does this to keep him happy and possibly to keep him quiet for a little while. As they reach the top of the cliff and turn the path, Lacey cries out, “it is still there.
Oh jolly good. It is still there”. As he stretched over the cliff to try and reach the plant, Molly stepped forward and tried to push him off the cliff, “but as she pushed him she felt her arms weak like jelly”. It is almost as if in her heart she doesn’t want to push him off. “For a second the wind bore his body and the stick scrabbled furiously for a purchase on the cliff”. He gets up, screaming at her, “you pushed me Molly, you – pushed me, you – pushed me”. Lacey is in complete shock as he realises what Molly was trying to do. Still she stood, stone – still” not listening to him.
She marches off down the path, with Lacey following after her. Before he was leading the way, but now she is the dominant figure in their relationship. And still he is trying to believe that it was an accident but he was lucky that she didn’t push him all the way off. The end of “Eveline” results in her doing what her heart feels is best as well, just like Molly as she leaves Frank to stay with her father. ” All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart”. It was a difficult decision but one that she had to make.