Joyce's main character, the unnamed narrator, feels the paralysis of his mundane existence. When he plays Wild West at Joe Dillon's, he longs for "real adventures to happen to myself." The game playing after school becomes "as wearisome ... as the routine of school." He wants more:
But real adventures,...
I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.
The narrator tries to seek an adventure that breaks him out of his paralyzing routine, where Father Butler condemns even reading an adventure book like The Apache Chief, which animates the after-school games.
The narrator, Dillon, and another boy named Mahony make plans to ditch school and go together by ferry across the river Liffey to a place called Pigeon House. Dillon's paralysis is implied by his failure to show up. Mahony and the narrator take the ferry to the island but never get to Pigeon House. Instead, while they are lounging by a riverbank, they are approached by an older man with an "ashen grey" mustache who becomes increasingly disturbing to them with his inappropriate talk. He wears a suit that is greenish black, the color green a symbol of Ireland, and he has "yellow" teeth: throughout the stories, yellow is a color associated with the paralysis of Dublin life.
Although not articulated directly, the man apparently walks away and masturbates, for Mahony says, "I say! Look what he’s doing!" The two boys are disturbed enough to come up with fake names in case the man asks them who they are. Mahony gets up and leaves as the man comes back, but the narrator's paralysis is expressed in his inability to break away from the man. As the man talks about his desire to whip Mahony, the narrator finally leaves. The man's masturbation and repetitive, sadistic sexual fantasies are not procreative but represent Irish paralysis.
In sum, paralysis is expressed through the narrator's failed attempt to escape to the Pigeon House, with its symbolism of flying away, only to encounter a perverted man who symbolizes Ireland's lack of creative potential. Everywhere he turns, the narrator is faced with what seems to hem him in all the more firmly, be it the war games, Catholic school, or his lower-middle-class surroundings, all part of an Ireland he can't seem to escape.