The relationship of life and death represents Elizabeth's
relationship with her husband. Life and death are as opposite of
each other as lightness and darkness. In life, Elizabeth and her
husband were as far apart and as opposite as life and death and
darkness and light.
Elizabeth resents her husband for making her live in "this
dirty hole". She hates his work as a miner and the community
they live in because she considers herself meant for a better life
than the one her husband has given her. She distances herself from
everyone around her except her daughter. It is only through her
husband's death that she realizes she never knew him, and
she learns too late to value him for the man he was. His death
separates him from her, and it is only then that
she understands their differences in life should have given
their marriage deeper meaning. Instead, she failed Walter in life.
Elizabeth "knew she submitted to life, which was her immediate
master. But from death, her ultimate master, she winced with fear
The role of death then is to make Elizabeth aware of her failure
to her husband in trying to change him. Elizabeth will live the
rest of her life hoping to meet her husband in the afterlife, but
while she's alive, she will spend the remainder of her life
no longer trying to change or criticize people. She can certainly
be closer to her son John, who looks so much like her husband.