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  • Like a "Helpless Animal" (D 41)? Like a Cautious Woman:Joyce's "Eveline," Immigration, and the Zwi Migdal in Argentina in the Early 1900s
  • Laura Barberan Reinares (bio)

In his 1972 essay "Molly's Masterstroke," Hugh Kenner challenges the "conventional and superficial" readings of "Eveline" that suggest this (anti)heroine remains paralyzed in the end, unable to embrace a promising future with Frank in Buenos Aires.1 Katherine Mullin, for her part, presents compelling evidence on the discourses of white-slave trafficking circulating in Europe around the time Joyce was writing and revising "Eveline" for publication.2 In this note, I will provide further key facts supporting Kenner's and Mullin's reading of the story, since a historical look at the circumstances of Frank's tales further reinforces questions about the sailor's honesty.

"Eveline" was first published in The Irish Homestead on 10 September 1904. One month later, on 8 October, Joyce moved to Pola for a brief period and later to Trieste, where he began his permanent exile. By that time, heavy immigration from Europe to Argentina had already started; as H. S. Ferns observes, "in the early 1820's, Argentina excited interest as a new Eldorado in Liverpool and London, and attracted both people and capital."3 Between 1830 and 1930, sporadic waves of Irish immigrants reached Argentinean coasts in search of a better future, tempted by the "spectacularly rapid economic and cultural development" happening during those years.4 These groups, however, constituted a noticeable minority when compared to the influx from other nations such as Spain, Italy, France, and Germany (to a lesser degree). By 1914, "around one-third of the country's population was foreign-born, and around 80 percent of the population comprised immigrants and those descended from immigrants since 1850," with Italians and Spaniards encompassing the greatest slice of the foreign community.5 Thomas F. McGann explains that, in fact, "one-half of the total of economically active people in the country in 1914 were foreigners."6 As Sidney Feshbach suggests in his response to Kenner's argument, it sounds credible that Frank could have attempted a new life in Buenos Aires,7 but a deeper look at the historical context raises questions about the successful picture he paints of himself and thus [End Page 529] about his intentions.

The most obvious of Frank's fabrications lies in the seductive "stories of the terrible Patagonians" he tells the young girl (D 39). A quick look at any Argentinean history book can confirm 1) that the Patagonians had long been wiped out by the time Frank traveled around the world, and 2) that they were not nearly as "terrible" as Frank portrays them. Don Gifford notes that "[i]n late Victorian times little was known of [the Patagonians] except that they were said to be the tallest of human races," while he further observes that "[l]egend took over from there and created a race of near monsters."8 In reality, Jonathan C. Brown explains, the native Patagonians were "quite small . . . families or clans" of hunters who "moved mainly on foot and set camps based on the seasons and hunting opportunities"; their "tools were simple, usually bone and stone weapons and scrapers, products of their Stone Age existence."9 When the Spaniards arrived in the sixteenth century, the conquistadores set in motion a systematic crusade of annihilation against the native aborigines in Argentina, which was relatively easy to accomplish because the tribes were scattered around the territory and never managed to constitute strong empires such as the Incas in Peru or the Aztecs and Mayans in Mexico. This near genocide continued for centuries until General Julio A. Roca's infamous "Conquest of the Desert" in 1879, where he completed "the end of indigenous resistance [by extermination]" and, therefore, the "southern Pampas and Patagonia became open for settlement," according to Brown (287). Unlike most of the rest of South America, Argentina had very few of its native inhabitants left by 1879.10 From a historical standpoint, then, the "terrible Patagonians" Frank describes to Eveline were clearly a myth, while one can speculate that the author possibly knew that the monstrous Patagonians only existed in...


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