While many of Joyce’s references are unquestionably exact, even down to the address or the name of the establishment, others are dauntingly vague. For example, the reference to Canada in “Eveline,” at first glance seems expansive, especially as it refers to Frank’s adventures in Eveline’s limited perspective:
He had tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy at a pound a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada” (39).
Canada also serves as the birthplace of Andre Riviere in “After the Race:”
“They were Charles Segouin, the owner of the car; Andre Riviere, a young electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named Villona and a neatly groomed young man named Doyle” (42-43).
In “After the Race,” the reference serves partly as an emphasis on the international overtones of the story. The young men in the story come from all over the Western hemisphere and converge in Dublin in celebration of youth, energy, and speed.
A country spanning 9.98 million square kilometers is, as a geographic reference, quite a deviation in scale from, say, Mulligan’s pub in Poolbeg Street. Its magnitude is consistent with the general internationalism of “After the Race” as well as Eveline’s perception of all the far-away worlds Frank inhabits. In Eveline’s case, it would make sense that, to her, Canada is just Canada, a vast world contained within a single word. However, Frank is probably only familiar with a small part of the country, and it’s one of four major cities that serve as the ports for the Allan Line.
The Allan Line was a shipping company in service from 1854 to 1911. (After 1911, it merged with another company.) It sailed between North America, Europe, and South America (including “Buenos Ayres”) and was operated by a Canadian shipping family based in Quebec. Of its several steam ship routes between 1854 and 1917 (when its merger with Canadian Pacific Line was made official), five served ports in Canada:
- 1854 – 1917 Liverpool – (Moville) – Quebec – Montreal (summer)
- 1854 – 1903 Liverpool – (Halifax) – Portland (winter)
- 1861 – 1917 Glasgow – St. John’s NF – Quebec – Montreal.
- 1871 – 1892 Liverpool – Queenstown – Halifax – Norfolk – Baltimore.
- 1888 – 1917 London / Havre – Quebec / Montreal – St. John, NB (winter)
from The Ships List
The Ships List website lists all of the Allan Line ships that would have sailed those routes and features several photographs of the ships as well as the ports. “[Frank] told [Eveline] the names of the ships he had been on,” but the names aren’t mentioned in the story. Incidentally, though, one of the ships was the Bohemian, a name correlating with The Bohemian Girl opera referenced only a few sentences before the Allan Line reference in the story. The ship, however, was only in operation for five years before it sank off the coast of Maine in February of 1864, killing 20 people. The ship’s life would most likely predate Frank’s time as a deck boy. Other ships included the Brazilian, Parisian, Prussian, and St. Andrew, to name just a few.
While in the case of “Eveline,” the reference to Canada may seem at first vague and even intimidating, it is actually no more vague than the references in the same story to place like Buenos Ayres, Melbourne, Belfast, or the Straits of Magellan. What seems to be a reference to an entire country is really a reference to only a few possible port cities off of the Atlantic Ocean. To Eveline, though, it’s a world away from the world that holds her tightly in its grip.