What does "the descent of their last end" mean in James Joyce's The Dead?

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Is it referring to the ephemeral nature of snow?

1 Answer 1


“The last end” or the final end, the end of everything, is a poetic way of referring to death, which gives the story closure, as it is what the title and key topic of the story are. One of Joyce’s trademarks in his writing is his association and fusion of disparate things in the form of multi-meaning symbols or in this case a metaphor. The snow falls on the people of the city - “on the living and the dead”. But it also descends on them in the same way that death is slowly descending on everyone, because it is a fate that awaits all people. The beauty of snow is compared to the tender, somber, melancholy creeping on of mortality.

  • 1
    Yes, now that I re-read the sentence I can see your point. I am glad I asked the question it makes a lot more sense now. It closes the story perfectly and opens up my perspective. Thank you.
    – hba
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 22:08
  • Joyce is God - get to Finnegans Wake ;) Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 22:16
  • 1
    Will do :-) I'm looking forward to it.
    – hba
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 0:26

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