Many of Joyce’s characters in Dubliners are trapped in a bubble, where they are paralyzed and confined to a world that they want to escape.
The first example of this is in “Araby” where the narrator is attracted to a young girl. He can hear her, see her, and dream and wish about her. He always thinks about her, and longs to be with her: “Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance (Joyce, 25).” However, he is unable to escape from himself and talk to her or get to know her. The narrator can experience all of the feelings for Mangan’s sister, but he cannot escape from the bubble he is in so that he can talk to her. He tries to get out of this bubble by offering to get her something from the bazaar. However, he is again trapped when his uncle comes home late. The narrator had the brief opportunity to buy something, but he was unable to puncture the bubble he was in: “…I know my stay was useless…then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar…I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out (Joyce 30).” His opportunity to escape from his bubble had passed.
Much like in “Araby,” Eveline is trapped because of the promise she made to her dying mother. She is stuck at home doing the chores and caring for her family: “Home! She looked around the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from (Joyce, 32).” Her life is very mundane and repetitive. Her dream outside the bubble is to live abroad, to be married, and to be treated with respect. She was given a chance with Frank to experience all of this. She, like the young boy in “Araby,” was very close to puncturing the bubble and escaping, but she was unable to: “Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window curtain… (Joyce, 35).” She made it to the pier, where she had the chance to escape from her bubble, but when she could not go, she “gave…no sign of love or farewell or recognition (Joyce, 36),” and remained trapped.
As Joyce’s characters age, they suffer from the same inability to free themselves from their lives. Before Little Chandler meets with Gallaher, he thinks about the past times they had together, where they had many things in common. However, once Chandler talks with Gallaher for some time, Chandler realizes that Gallaher has moved on and become a great man who travels around the world and experiences many adventures. Little Chandler, on the other hand, has not changed as much, and, instead of adventuring in his life, he settles down with his family: “He watched the scene...