As a work representative of the Irish experience, James Joyce's Dubliners presents certain aspects of the residents of the capital city. One of these aspects is the failure of Dublin business to manufacture and distribute goods, a failure that reduced the economic situation for its residents as well as the spiritual stagnation from the Catholic Church. It is in this economically and spiritually depressed condition that Eveline resides and works as a meager clerk in a shop. At work Eveline feels herself victimized by Miss Gavan, who frequently chides her; at home Eveline suffers equally from religious servility that represses her as a dutiful daughter. For, Eveline suffers from the "violence" of her father, and she feels obliged to her mother's memory.
As the inert Eveline sits watching the sunset on the avenue where she lives, she inhales the "odour of "dusty cretonne," an odor reminiscent of her mother's funeral. She looks around the room and sees the "yellowing photograph" of a priest, a photograph that hangs above the colored print "of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque." These promises of Eveline have been to care for her little brother in her mother's absence. So, as Eveline sits in the window looking down the brown street, she ponders the time for her that is running out. Down this street, too, Eveline hears a street organ being played by an Italian. This organ and the Italian language, so like the Latin of the Mass at church, recall to Eveline the death of her mother as well as the death of her dream because of a stultifying religious obligation. For, this music reminds Eveline of her vows to her mother to keep the "home together as long as she could," as well as the funeral of her mother that has now become a dirge for her in the Italian's song.
Her distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips in silent fervent prayer....All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them:: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.
Indeed, the street organ and the Italian's song foreshadow symbolically the paralysis of Eveline as she so desperately grips the iron railing and refuses to join Frank on the ship for Buenos Ayres. Ironically, too, Eveline's father's invective against the organ grinder who played as her mother lay ill--"Damned Italians! coming over here!"--has been misdirected as most of the Italians at that time emigrated to Argentina, the place to which Frank wants her to join him.