In James Joyce's story, the main character Eveline is deluded from the beginning about herself and her potential escape. For, she has been subjugated by her abusive father for too long. This subjugation and repression are foreshadowed by the dark evening in which she is tired. That her hopes of escaping with the young man for a better life and freedom from her father are illusionary have been suggested by the fact that Frank is a sailor who has been all over the world and unlikely to marry and stay in one place, and by the knowledge that Eveline is indecisive from the beginning:
Perhaps she would never again see those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided....
What would they say of her in the stores when they found out that she had run away with a fellow? Say she was a fool, perhaps; and her place would be filledup by advertisement. Miss Gavan would be glad. She had always had an edge on her, especially whenever there were people listening.
Eveline's plan is mostly a dream: "People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been." The truth is that Eveline has fallen into the role of mother for her brother, and even for the father, who abuses her. Added to this, Eveline has the mentality of an abused woman:
It was hard work--a hard life--but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.
The motif of indecisiveness is recurrent throughout Joyce's story. She must meet her lover secretly as her father has forbidden her to see him, her
time was running out, but she continued to sit by the window,, leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne (like at a funeral).
Eveline is reminded this night of her promise to her mother to "keep the home together" for as long as she could. Outside she hears a melancholy tune play by an organ grinder. She repeats that Frank will save her, trying to convince herself. She wonders if she could still draw back after all Fred has done for her. And, "a bell clanged upon her heart" as Frank seizes her. Eveline feels as though Frank will drown her as "all the seas of the world tumbled about her heart." Eveline, pale, in anguish, cannot love anyone else. She must return to ther brother, whom she cannot leave just as her mother could not her husband.
In Joyce's short story, "Eveline," Eveline is trapped and figuratively paralyzed in a bad home life. She is the responsible person in her home and takes care of her little brother and her abusive father.
Her going to Buenes Aires is an opportunity to escape. Like other characters in Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, from which this story comes, she is a Dubliner trapped in Ireland and unable to escape. Moving away to South America would present her with what would most likely be a better life.
But this escape comes at too high a price, apparently. Dubliners features characters that don't get out of Ireland, even when they have a chance. In Eveline's case, she is in a no-win situation. To leave would probably present her with a better existence, but would leave her family uncared for. She freezes when it is time to go--she is literally, and figuratively, frozen. She has no good choice. She desperately wants to escape, but cannot bring herself to do so.
It is important to note that this is sophisticated fiction. Eveline does not cheerily stay and idealistically look forward to being the rock of her family or whatever. This story presents no moral lesson. The fiction realistically depicts a woman trapped in a modern situation with no way out. It is dark and honest.