The story "Eveline" is one example of a person desiring to escape a constricting life in Dublin. Her mother has died, her tyrannical father demands she turns her earnings over to him, and she dislikes her job as a department store cashier. She is offered the chance to elope with a sailor. However, the weight of the past keeps her in place: guilt and training to be subservient has been drilled into her by her mother and the Catholic church, and she suddenly starts to have sentimental feelings about her abusive father. These chains of indoctrination and sentiment paralyze her so that she cannot break free to embrace a new existence.
In "Araby," the young boy narrator also yearns to escape his dull life in Dublin. He channels his dreams towards a girl he has a crush on and a bazaar with the romantic name Araby. He is stopped by the past as well—his uncle, the patriarch who controls the family money, comes in late and drunk, and the boy is late to the bazaar. When he gets there, he realizes it is no different from the rest of Dublin life. In this case, the boy is constricted both by the patriarchy (his uncle) and the dull lack of vision in Irish life.
In most cases in Dubliners, the destructive and strangling hold the Irish past has on characters in the form of patriarchy, Catholicism, and lack of forward vision keeps people back. Whether it is destructive, outmoded ideas they have internalized or external factors in Dublin life, characters' desires most often come to nothing.