The mood of isolation permeates this entire short story. From the very beginning, Elizabeth is isolated. She is waiting for Walter to return for dinner. She is isolated and alone with her thoughts. Although her children are with her, they too are isolated from her. The little boy plays in a corner, the little girl is away at school. When Walter does not return, Elizabeth goes out looking for him, also alone. She leaves her two children alone in the house while she searches for Walter. When her mother-in-law arrives and they learn of Walter’s death, they each begin grieving in their own way, but they are isolated from each other. Elizabeth’s thoughts flow in one direction and by her actions, the mother shows that her thoughts are entirely different than the wife’s. The mother remembers the dead man as her darling son, the wife remembers him as someone who made her life miserable, a drunk. Even after Elizabeth remembers that she lived with Walter for so many years, they had two children together and one on the way, they were really strangers to each other. And now, the child within her is “like ice to her” – another symbol of isolation.
Elizabeth realizes that she and Walter have both been guilty of causing each other’s isolation in their marriage. Perhaps this is why he drank. His mother indicated that he was a happy, joyous man until he got married and even Elizabeth remembers him thusly when they were first married. They had worked against each other, however, over the years. She isolated herself from him because of his drinking, and he drank because she isolated herself from him. It was a vicious circle and now he is dead and she is alone.