This short story of a woman's reckoning with mortality is ripe with numerous symbols of death. Janet Frame employs this symbolism and imagery throughout the short story to develop and expand on the theme of death. Some of the symbols are quite literal, such as the rows of tombstones at the cemetery where her husband and parents are buried. Others are more figurative. A feeling of coldness is present throughout much of the story. The passageway to the bathroom is cold, and the bathroom itself is even colder. Coldness is often seen as symbolic of death, since dead bodies hold no heat.
When the old woman pulls the plug in the bath to drain the water, her feelings are also symbolic of death. She feels herself being drawn "down into the earth." This naturally makes one think of a burial. At this point, her fingers are described as "stiffened" and "blue," something we might ascribe to the fingers of a corpse. Her paleness is also symbolic of death. She also feels trapped in the bath as if she were trapped under the earth, once again bringing up images of being buried in a grave.
These symbols of death set the mood of the story so that the idea of mortality is constantly in the reader's mind.