Interestingly, the image of a window opens Joyce's first story, "The Sisters," and the third and fourth stories, "Araby" and "Eveline," suggesting the detachment of the narrators who, perhaps, look through "a glass darkly" as St Paul wrote. Religion, specifically the Roman Catholic, plays a significant role as well; namely, the rituals of religion lead to a certain paralysis because of the effeteness of them for Father Flynn, "a disappointed man" whose tongue lay upon his lower lip in a lurid parody of the Eucharist.
Throughout this short story, there is a certain ambiguity as the young narrator expresses affection for the priest who has taught him Latin, stories about the catacombs, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the various vestments of the liturgy. But, when the priest is ill at the beginning of the narrative, the boys ponders the word paralysis and he word fills hims with both fear and a desire to look upon its "deadly work." So, when Father Flynn does die, the boy
seemed in a mourning mood” and that he felt “a sensation of freedom as if . . . freed from something by his death.
Old Cotter hints at something strange about the priest, saying that he would not have his children around the priest too much. Certainly, he has used copious amounts of snuff; but, there has been "something strange" about Father Flynn as he seems to have a duality to his nature. As he lies in his coffin, for instance, he is "solemn and copious, vested as for the altar," with his face "truculent, gray and massive with black cavernous nostrils." Yet, the narrator's aunt says that she thinks he looks "resigned." Nonetheless, his sister Eliza says,
"The duties of the priesthood was too much for him. And then his life was, you might say, crossed."
It is the breaking of the chalice that marks a critical point in the life of Father Flynn; some say the boy has been at fault. After this incident, Father Flynn's mind has been affected--perhaps, from guilt. At any rate he is found on an evening in the confessional, laughing softly to himself.
Wide-awake and laughing-like to himself....So then, of course, when they was that, that made them think that there was something gone wrong with him....
Here it is a spiritual paralysis that characterizes Father Flynn, perhaps from guilt. However, just as in the rest of the story, there is an ambiguity even at the end of James Joyce's "The Sisters."