Before the story opens, Michael and Dora are arguing about his need to be more responsible and more "traditional." Dora makes the point that he needs to be more of a provider for the family, ensuring that bills are paid and that responsibilities are met. At the same time, she is arguing that his focus needs to be on her. Thus, she believes Michael needs to be more of a provider and husband. Essentially, she wants him to embrace his role as the traditional male. Michael is not very comfortable with this condition. He feels stifled by its reality. Feeling suffocated, Michael wishes to find a realm where he does not feel so overcome by expectation and external definition. Michael feels that a string of "bad luck" has helped to contribute to the bills not being paid and that the definitions that Dora is placing on him fails to take these realities into account.
The argument that both of them have tie into the title. The "impulse" that Dora believes Michael should have would be more inwardly drawn, reflective of domestic responsibilities. The "impulse" that Michael feels is more outwardly drawn, away from such a strict and constricting definition of reality.