Dust is associated with decay and lifelessness. Eveline lives a dismal and hopeless life, and it is the idea of spiritual lifelessness and paralysis which drives the narrative of Joyce's story "Eveline."
As the narrative opens, Eveline sits at the window and regards the evening as it "invades the neighborhood." She is tired and her nostrils inhale the "odour of dusty cretonne" in the darkening room. Eveline looks around the room, wondering at the yellowing picture of the priest, whose name she has never learned. Clearly, there is an aura of spiritual corruption about the priest friend of her father, who would only say "He is in Melbourne now," a location where many Irish prisoners were sent. Then, Eveline thinks of the store where she works and the lifeless position she holds there with Miss Gavan, who often scolds her, "Look lively, Miss Hill, please."
Similarly, at home Eveline lives a stagnant life. She works every day and turns over her salary to her father. After her mother's death, Eveline has had to do all the housework and cooking. And, yet, with all her drudgery and discontent and even physical abuse by her father, Eveline is still uncertain about departing from her home with her sailor named Frank. For, it is the Catholic duties of obedience to her father and caring for her brother that paralyze Eveline, leaving her in the dusty house and the stagnant environment. Eveline, a victim of her self-delusion, surrenders to the dust and hopeless paralysis of this self-deception.