Strange to think of the endless labour, the digging, the hammering, the carving, the lifting, the drilling, day by day, year by year, century by century; and now the endless crumbling that must be going on everywhere. Sandcastles in the wind.
This quotation appears in chapter 3 as Snowman looks at the ruins of his fallen civilization and contemplates how even those things that appear most solid turn out to be fragile. After the daily afternoon storm, Snowman makes his way to a collapsed bridge where he can shower in the runoff and fill his empty beer bottles with drinking water. As he approaches the broken bridge, Snowman notices a sign reading “Men at Work,” which prompts him to consider the extraordinary amount of human labor that went into the design and construction of such a feat of engineering. Yet for all that labor, and in spite of its apparent solidity, it didn’t take much for the cement bridge to buckle and collapse into ruin. For Snowman, the bridge symbolizes civilization as a whole, a vast and interconnected human invention that took centuries to build and just one generation to destroy. Although Snowman mourns the destruction of civilization, his observation also has a spiritual quality. Just as the construction is “endless,” Snowman suggests that the crumbling is similarly “endless.” The double use of “endless” suggests an eternal, cosmic cycle of life and death, creation and destruction.