Throughout the text all manifestations of winter—cold, the color white, snow, and the season itself—usually represent mortality. The fact that snow falls indiscriminately “on both the living and the dead” all over Dublin highlights the fact that many Dubliners are living meaningless lives and are essentially dead while alive. As Gabriel enters the house there is “a light fringe of snow” on his coat and galoshes. This use of snow and cold in relation to Gabriel’s body accentuates his relationship with death. As we later learn, Gabriel feels (or learns himself) that it would be better to die young for passion, as Michael Furey, than to live a long empty life, as he is doing.
This indiscriminate quality of snow, which is said to be falling all over Ireland, highlights the fact that mortality is universal, and also serves to unite the living and the dead. Some of the living, like Gabriel, have not really lived, and some of the dead, like Michael Furey, hold significance equal to that of the living, as in Gretta’s mind. So the living and the dead are not really that different, and the snow is a reminder that everyone will end with the same fate.
Snow Quotes in The Dead
Their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched their souls’ tender fire. In one letter that he had written to her then he had said: Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.