She was fast asleep from 'Dubliners, The Dead' by J.Joyce (1914)
The protagonists of this passage are Gabriel, an Irish teacher and journalist, his wife Gretta, and, in Gabriel's thoughts, his aunts and Michael Furey.
Gabriel and Gretta are in a hotel room after a Christmas party given by Gabriel's aunts.
They have just come back from the party where Gretta, after listening to an old song, bursts into tears.
Once at the hotel, she has told Gabriel she is crying for a boy, Michael Furey, who died for her.
He was in love with her and wanted to say good bye before she left for college. He waited for her to appear through the window all night long in the rain, fell ill and died of pneumonia.
Gabriel who, while walking back to the hotel, was 'consumed with physical passion' for his wife, first feels disappointed and then his feelings turn into pity for her while he is looking at her sleeping.
There is very little action, i.e., Gabriel is looking at Gretta sleeping and he starts thinking.
His thoughts wonder to present, past and future; he thinks of aunt Julia and how she will soon die, of the words that might console aunt Kate; then his mind wonders to Michael Furey and how his wife has 'locked him in her heart for so many years'. He feels he has played a poor part in his wife's life and that Michael, although physically dead is more alive in her heart than he is. Looking at the snow falling through the window and hearing its 'light taps upon the pane', he has the impression he is losing his identity and becoming one with the dead.
In the passage there are some examples of Joyce's complex technique; from line 14 to 16 there is a detailed description of Gretta's clothes. The external reality triggers off a psychological reaction, and Gabriel after observing the scene, lets his thoughts go freely.
Some powerful symbols are used. Personal names have a double meaning; they are connected with angels. Gabriel is the prince of fire and the angel of death. Gabriel, the protagonist, is associated with warmth/fire and is spiritually dead. Michael is an angel, too; he will live forever in Gretta's memory, winning the weak presence of her husband. The snow is a symbol of death because it covers the dead and the living alike; it is the symbol of hopeless solitude and incommunicability or the isolation of the artist in Dublin and Ireland; at the same time, it is the symbol of purification and life since it clears the world of all the negative images. Therefore, the final image of the falling snow creates a symbolic reconciliation between life and death. The journey has multiple meanings. Gabriel feels that the time has come to 'set out on his journey Westward'. Traditionally, 'going West' means 'dying' and, to Joyce, it also means 'leaving Ireland'. However , to Gabriel and Gretta, it also means to face reality and life. Gabriel goes towards the West to meet life and death.
From line 5 to 7 and in the last lines of the passage we find two examples of 'epiphany'. Gabriel suddendly realizes how poor a part he has played in his wife's life and then, while his identity fades, he understands that he is no longer alone, he is part of the community of the living and the dead.
This happens despite the dramatic extinction of the protagonist's personality and the awareness of not being loved.
Although, in Gabriel's thoughts we can find the conflict between life and death, what finally emerges is the triumph of love. The most effective antithesis of this excerpt is the metaphorical pattern of life and death. Throughout the story the living are shown as spiritually dead, and, although Michael is physically dead, he is alive in Gretta's heart.