The novel took place on a winter night in Dublin. Every year, Kate and Julia Morkan, two old ladies of the middle class and their niece Mary Jane organized a Christmas party for relatives and friends.
The protagonists are Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta. Gabriel tought at the university and wrote the literary column in the "Daily Express"; he was Kate and Julia's nephew and he had to have a look of Freddy Matines, who often got drunk and to pronounce the final speech. He was an ordinary and quiet man and did all this with kindness and assiduity, while watching his wife, who seemed more detached.
The party succeded. Never once had it fallen flat: guests spoke a lot about music and there was also a popular tenor, however he didn't want to perform, whereas Miss Julia sang with feeble voice in a funny way.
When it was time to come back, Gabriel was ready to go to the hotel, because their home was far away from there, but suddendly Gretta stopped on the stairs: the tenor started to sing " the Lass of Aughrim", an old irish song; Gretta was on the verge of crying. They reached the hotel they discussed about it.
Gretta told him about a young man, who once loved her and sang that irish song. When she was young she had lived with her grandma and had had to break this relationship off, in order to come here in Dublin. Michael( that was his name), despite being very ill, had spent a whole day under the rain waiting for her and had confessed that he would have prefered the Death without her. After she had come to the college in Dublin, she found out that he died very few days later her departure.
Gretta went on crying, while Gabriel listened to her, even if unquietly, then she fell asleep. Here there is Gabriel's "epiphany": he observed himself in the mirror and became aware of his pettiness and realized that he had never loved his wife as Michael Fury did, who even died for her
The man who is alive is spiritually dead, whereas the dead, even if they are apparently so, lived more than the physically alive man, cause they are remembered.
It is not clear if this reflection would help Gabriel to be a better man or it was just a temporary concern. The novel ended with the falling snow:it snowed on the entire Irland, also on the cemetery where Michael was buried.