Gabriel spends the journey home thinking of his wife and their many happy moments together. But he soon learns that she has been thinking of a love she had in her girlhood. Though married, they spent the ride home in completely different worlds. Gabriel's thoughts were only his own, and he and his wife could not have been farther apart. He had hoped for a tender night, but their evening ends with Gretta sleeping and Gabriel admitting that he has never felt so strongly for a woman that he would die for her, as Michael Furey did.
The separation of death becomes a metaphor for the separation between the living. Joyce joins the themes of isolation and mortality. Gabriel feels himself becoming one of the deceased: "His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead" (224). The snow, falling upon "all the living and the dead" becomes a metaphor for isolation, the inability to know others, even those with whom we are intimate. Ironically, the snow also functions as a symbol for the death that comes indiscriminately. Opaque where it lies "thickly drifted" over objects in cities and distant graveyards, it masks all behind a shield of white, isolating each thing, while also reminding Gabriel that the same mortality awaits all beings.