In James Joyce's "The Dead," what is the significance of the snow?
The snow is the symbol of death and the hold the dead have over the living, in Ireland in general and in Gabriel's life in particular. Snow follows Gabriel from the start of the story: as he comes into the warm Christmas house he tries to scrape the snow off his "goloshes," and a "light fringe of snow" lays on his shoulder like "a cape." Thus he enters the warm present unconsciously brushed and dusted with death and carrying with him in the symbol of the snow the past that the dead represent.
Gretta, his wife, is also caught up in the past and the dead, specifically her dead beloved, Michael Furey. Gabriel says of her, with unconscious irony, that "she'd walk home in the snow if she were let." Yes, Gretta would walk into the past occupied by the dead, if she could.
While the others are enjoying the Christmas dinner, Gabriel wishes he could be outside, walking by the river, and through the park, where the snow would be lying on the (dead) branches of the trees and the Wellington...
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