"The Dead" climaxes when Gretta shares the story of the boy who loved her, Michael Furey. She loved him greatly, but often, the already sick Michael insisted on meeting her in the damp chill and then later died. Gretta believes because of that, he died for her love and she still greatly regards him, even after her marriage to Gabriel.
As Gretta sleeps, Gabriel's ardor cools (he's spent much of the evening hoping to have some sex with Gretta before they go to bed) and he begins to think about his own life compared to Michael's brief existence. Even though Michael died a young man with no great professional or social success, he left his mark regardless. His life had more meaning than Gabriel's longer one.
Gabriel is reevaluating his own life as he watches the snow fall on "the living and the dead" alike. He realizes he will not live forever, that one day he will become only a memory and then more than likely forgotten. However, Joyce does not present this as a sad thing, but as the reason...
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