Eveline and A Little Cloud share the common theme of emotional paralysis. Both the primary characters, “Eveline” in the former and “Chandler” in the latter, share a common desire to leave their homes and families and embark on a new journey through the remainder of their lives living in a new place, with new people, and a new outlook. In the end, however, after weighing the “pros and cons” of abandoning their current existence and way of life, each decides that there is no real possibility that their lives could be contented and fulfilling.
By each deciding that the proverbial “grass” may not be “greener on the other side” and that their present life, with all its faults and problems, is nonetheless what they must be satisfied with each realizes that there is no other option that what they each have. Eveline deals specifically with a girl, Eveline, who considers leaving her home and family and immigrating to Argentina for marriage. The story focuses on her thought process concerning the two options confronting her, i. e.
, continuing her unhappy life at home contending with such things as an abusive father and unfulfilling job, or a dramatic, potentially disastrous escape to a foreign country with no guarantees of success or happiness. Her thinking is full of second-guessing, as she tells herself first that her life is unhappy and that she is fundamentally discontented but then decides that her life really isn’t that bad, that her dad was not always that mean, etc. She engages in a series of “what ifs”, signaling her fear of the unknown.
By stating such things as “Perhaps she would never see again those familiar objects from which she had dreamed of being divided” (30), she clearly demonstrates her hesitation to leave the comfort and familiarity of her life. But at almost the same time she indicates her hope that a jump into a new life would of course eliminate these problems and be better for her. “But in her new home, in a distant country, it would never be like that” (30). Her decision making process is also burdened with the promise she made to her mother to “keep the family together as long as she could”.
With this promise in mind, Eveline revises her view of her life at home by remembering the small kindness over the years such as her father caring for her when she was sick and a family picnic before her mother died. She grasps the letters she’s written to her father and brother, revealing her inability to let go of those symbols of family relationships despite her father’s cruelty and her brother’s absence. “She remembered her father putting on her mother’s bonnet to make the children laugh” (32) showing that she clings to the older and more pleasant memories and imagines what other people want her to do or will do for her.
While she sees Frank as a rescuer, saving her from her domestic situation, she nonetheless chooses unhappiness rather than the frightening prospect of an unknown life with Frank in Argentina. This thought process marks her constant mental battle between being free and having a new life or dealing with the old unhappy life but being safe and secure in it, however battered and emotionally scarred she became. Could she live like she did and just keep her promise? Did she want to? While she considers the many reasons for her to leave, her ultimate decision not to leave reflects the lack of options she really has.
In effect, there are no other alternatives for her, despite the fact that she had nothing to stay for since her father’s threats and abuse had basically destroyed everything once her mother died, but her real conflict was choosing between her mother and Frank. “She was about to explore another life with Frank” (31) – a new life, a way to start over with her lover, Frank, the price of which would be the abandonment of her mother’s memory and her solemn promise. The emotional paralysis comes from the decision of where she wants to “drown” (34) in the unknown, like she describes at the end of the story.
After an internal battle, wherein she resorts to asking God for help (showing she has no idea what she’s doing and is looking for someone or something to make the decision for her) she decides to not immigrate. This is a decision that undoubtedly she had already made some time previously-perhaps when “in her nostrils was the odor of dusty cretonne” (32). The end of the story is she gets to the breaking point of Frank calling her name to which she looks up “passive, like a helpless animal”(34). In the end, she basically cheats herself out of the possibility of living a fully realized life, and chooses familiar unhappiness.