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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stories and storytelling in Alice Munro’s fiction Somerville, J. Christine 1985

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STORIES AND STORYTELLING IN ALICE MUNRO'S FICTION By J . CHRISTINE SOMERVILLE B.A., Queen's U n i v e r s i t y at Kingston, Ont., 1959 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of E n g l i s h ) We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e g u i r e d standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l 1985 © C h r i s t i n e S o m e r v i l l e , 1985 22 I n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r a n a d v a n c e d d e g r e e a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , I a g r e e t h a t t h e L i b r a r y s h a l l m a k e i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e a n d s t u d y . I f u r t h e r a g r e e t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s may b e g r a n t e d b y t h e h e a d o f my d e p a r t m e n t o r b y h i s o r h e r r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t b e a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . D e p a r t m e n t o f E n g l i s h  T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a 1956 M a i n M a l l V a n c o u v e r , C a n a d a V6T 1Y3 D a t e A p r i l 25. 1985. i i -A b s t r a c t References to s t o r i e s and s t o r y t e l l i n g appear throughout A l i c e Munro 1s f i v e s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e s : DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES, LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN, SOMETHING I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? and THE. MOONS OF JUPITER. T h i s t h e s i s contends t h a t s t o r i e s — m e n t i o n e d b r i e f l y or recounted a t l e n g t h — p r o v i d e c o u n t e r p o i n t to experience f o r Munro's c h a r a c t e r s . O r a l and w r i t t e n s t o r i e s i n f l u e n c e them throughout l i f e , but e s p e c i a l l y i n youth, when they e a g e r l y i d e n t i f y with, and i m i t a t e , f i c t i o n a l f i g u r e s . In LIVES and WHO, s t o r y t e l l i n g becomes c e n t r a l because t h e i r p r o t a g o n i s t s are a w r i t e r and an a c t r e s s . O c c a s i o n a l l y , the n a r r a t o r s i n a l l f i v e works r e f l e c t on the d i f f i c u l t y of ex p r e s s i n g t r u t h i n f i c t i o n , but SOMETHING r a i s e s t h i s i s s u e r e p e a t e d l y . By embedding s t o r i e s w i t h i n her n a r r a t i v e s , Munro i m i t a t e s the workings of memory; moreover, she draws a t t e n t i o n to her n a r r a t i v e s as t e x t s r a t h e r than glimpses of r e a l i t y . A feminine p e r s p e c t i v e on n a r r a t i v e g r a d u a l l y emerges, i n which the woman n a r r a t o r sees her task not as imposing orde r , but as d i s c o v e r i n g order t h a t a l r e a d y e x i s t s . Table of Contents A b s t r a c t i i Short T i t l e s i v Acknowledgements V I n t r o d u c t i o n 1 Chapter One 7 Chapter Two 43 Chapter Three 73 Chapter Four 102 Chapter F i v e 126 C o n c l u s i o n 164 B i b l i o g r a p h y 168 iv • Short T i t l e s The f o l l o w i n g s h o r t t i t l e s f o r A l i c e Munro's works are used i n the t e x t : DANCE f o r DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES LIVES f o r LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN SOMETHING f o r SOMETHING I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU WHO f o r WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? MOONS f o r THE MOONS OF JUPITER V Acknowledgements For generously g i v i n g so much time to t h i s t h e s i s , I wish to thank my a d v i s o r , Dr. Donald G. Stephens, whose wit and judgement s u s t a i n e d me throughout the e n t i r e p r o j e c t . For r e a d i n g the penultimate d r a f t and a d v i s i n g on i t s argument and s t y l e , I am indebted to Dr. Margaret Howard Blom and Mrs. Marya E. Hardman. I a l s o g r a t e f u l l y acknowledge Mrs. Hardman's suggestion t h a t I e x p l o r e the connection between Gluck's ORPHEO and A l i c e Munro's DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES, an i d e a which Chapter One develops a t l e n g t h . F i n a l l y , I thank my mother, B e a t r i c e Bryce, with whom I have d i s c u s s e d A l i c e Munro f o r y e a r s , and R i c h a r d , my husband, who has helped me every b i t and byte of the way. •1 I n t r o d u c t i o n F o r r e s t L. Ingram d e f i n e s the s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e as "a se t of s t o r i e s so l i n k e d to one another t h a t the reader's experience of each one i s mo d i f i e d by h i s experience of the others " ."^  The separate s t o r i e s w i t h i n the c y c l e e x h i b i t g r e a t e r autonomy than do chapters i n a n o v e l , but s t i l l form a u n i f i e d whole. For the reader of a s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e b i - f o c a l v i s i o n i s r e q u i r e d i n order to see c l e a r l y both the i n d i v i d u a l s t o r y a t c l o s e range and the e n t i r e work at a d i s t a n c e . For the w r i t e r too, the form i s a demanding one, i n t h a t the inn e r p a t t e r n of the i n d i v i d u a l s t o r y must be balanced a g a i n s t the u n i f y i n g p a t t e r n of the e n t i r e work. Accor d i n g to Ingram, the u n i t y of a s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e may be apparent (where a s i n g l e n a r r a t i v e consciousness i s used) or hidden (where the s t o r i e s are l i n k e d through theme, s e t t i n g , or imagery, r a t h e r than n a r r a t i v e v o i c e ) . A l i c e Munro has p u b l i s h e d f i v e s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e s between 1968 and 1982. LIVES (1971) and WHO (1978) show apparent u n i t y as a r e s u l t of the n a r r a t i v e f o c u s i n g on a s i n g l e p r o t a g o n i s t ; DANCE (1968), SOMETHING (1974) and MOONS (1982) exemplify hidden u n i t y . T h i s study of Munro's s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e s seeks to e x p l a i n why the word " s t o r y " , as w e l l as r e l a t e d words such as "legend" and " t a l e " , r e c u r s so f r e q u e n t l y i n her f i c t i o n . As these words p r o l i f e r a t e , they s i g n a l the importance of 2 s t o r i e s i n the l i v e s of Munro 1s c h a r a c t e r s . Moreover, by r e p e a t e d l y mentioning s t o r i e s , she draws a t t e n t i o n to her own t e x t as a t e x t , and reminds the reader t h a t the n a r r a t o r i s an i n t e r p r e t e r of t r u t h whose p o i n t - o f - v i e w i s not e n t i r e l y o b j e c t i v e . By o f f e r i n g numerous r e a l i s t i c d e t a i l s to her r e a d e r s , Munro b r i n g s them c l o s e to her c h a r a c t e r s . But, the s t o r i e s her c h a r a c t e r s t e l l one another are o f t e n so exaggerated, grotesque, or otherwise unconvincing as to draw the reader back from the t e x t and arouse h i s s k e p t i c i s m . Frequent r e f e r e n c e s to s t o r i e s appear i n a l l f i v e c y c l e s , e s t a b l i s h i n g a motif which o f f e r s a way i n t o Munro's prose, which, while g e n e r a l l y admired by c r i t i c s and ge n e r a l readers a l i k e , has an e l u s i v e q u a l i t y t h a t b a f f l e s a n a l y s i s . Even the author h e r s e l f c laims to be unable to understand how her s t o r i e s work. D i s c u s s i n g Munro 1s 1981 i n t e r v i e w with Tim S t r u t h e r s , Eva-Marie K r o l l e r observes t h a t Munro 2 seems r e l u c t a n t to a r t i c u l a t e the s e c r e t s of her c r a f t . I t may be t h a t Munro i s unable, r a t h e r than u n w i l l i n g , to analyse her own work. Her approach to w r i t i n g i s more l i k e t h a t of p r i e s t e s s to sacred s p r i n g than craftsman to c r a f t . As she admits i n an essay she wrote to accompany two of her e a r l y s t o r i e s i n THE NARRATIVE VOICE, " W r i t i n g or t a l k i n g about w r i t i n g makes(herj s u p e r s t i t i o u s l y 3 uncomfortable". Her a t t i t u d e to the c r e a t i v e process i s one of g r a t i t u d e f o r g i f t s r e c e i v e d ; she n e i t h e r c laims r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r i n v e n t i n g her s t o r i e s , nor i n q u i r e s i n t o 3 the w e l l s p r i n g of her w r i t i n g . The one t h i n g t h a t she always claims i s t h a t s t o r i e s embody the t r u t h . She pays t r i b u t e to t h e i r importance by g i v i n g n a r r a t i v e anecdotes prominence i n a l l her f i c t i o n . Often she t r e a t s s t o r y t e l l i n g a t l e n g t h , when the n a r r a t o r d e s c r i b e s a c h a r a c t e r r e t e l l i n g an i n c i d e n t from the p a s t , or r e c i t i n g a poem from memory, r e a d i n g a newspaper s t o r y , w r i t i n g or r e a d i n g a l e t t e r . At other times, the r e f e r e n c e to s t o r y t e l l i n g may be as c r y p t i c as a book t i t l e mentioned i n c o n v e r s a t i o n or glimpsed on a s h e l f . Even more s u b t l y , the r e f e r e n c e may appear i n the s t o r y c y c l e as a metaphoric p a t t e r n which runs p a r a l l e l w i t h a myth or a f a i r y t a l e . Everyone, these s t o r y c y c l e s suggest, i s a s t o r y t e l l e r because everyone remembers h i s own p a s t , and looks f o r meaning i n h i s memories. The p r o f e s s i o n a l s t o r y t e l l e r — t h e w r i t e r , a c t r e s s or other a r t i s t — d i f f e r s from others o n l y i n succumbing to the temptation to t e l l h i s s t o r y to a wider audience than the s e l f or immediate f a m i l y . Of course, s t o r y t e l l i n g t h a t a s p i r e s to be a r t must s a t i s f y s t r i c t e r a e s t h e t i c standards than would be a p p l i e d to the average s t o r y t e l l e r r e c o u n t i n g an anecdote; however, both the o r d i n a r y person and the a r t i s t share a common d e s i r e to d i s c o v e r t r u t h through t h e i r f i c t i o n s . The assumption t h a t the essence of being a l i v e i s having a v o i c e i n which to t e l l one's s t o r y u n d e r l i e s a l l of Munro's f i c t i o n . T h e r e f o r e , words are r e s p e c t e d , h e l d 4 almost i n awe: they are i t a l i c i z e d , repeated, t h e i r sounds and meanings d i s c u s s e d ; they p u z z l e c h i l d r e n who misuse and misunderstand them; they continue to s t r u g g l e out of the mouths of the o l d , the s i c k , and the confused. In these s t o r i e s , people go on t a l k i n g as long as they are able to u t t e r words. A s e n i l e o l d woman who can no longer c a r r y on a c o n v e r s a t i o n w i l l s t i l l respond to a word s a i d i n her presence by s p e l l i n g i t ; a man who has l o s t the a b i l i t y to form words c l e a r l y as a r e s u l t of a s t r o k e w i l l s t i l l grunt anh-anh-anh, i n a t r a v e s t y of speech. Even when the aged stop t a l k i n g , as the once g a r r u l o u s F l o does i n WHO, t h e i r s i l e n c e i s eloquent. T h i s study examines Munro 1s f i v e p u b l i s h e d c o l l e c t i o n s s e p a r a t e l y and i n c h r o n o l o g i c a l o r d e r . Chapter One c o n s i d e r s DANCE (19 68) , i n which s t o r i e s i n f l u e n c e c h i l d r e n as they l e a r n about the world around them, form p e r s o n a l i t i e s and s t o r e up memories. Chapter Two i s devoted to LIVES (1971), i n which s t o r i e s i n f l u e n c e the development of a young w r i t e r , Del Jordan. Chapter Three analyses SOMETHING (1974), i n which Munro experiments w i t h p o i n t - o f - v i e w and e x p l o r e s the l i m i t s of s t o r y t e l l i n g . Chapter Four examines WHO (19 78), i n which s t o r y t e l l i n g becomes a compulsion. F i n a l l y , Chapter F i v e , d i s c u s s e s MOONS (1982), i n which s t o r i e s r e v e a l d i f f e r e n c e s between male and female ways of t h i n k i n g . S t o r y t e l l i n g , then, i s a common thread which runs through A l i c e Munro's f i c t i o n . Frequent r e f e r e n c e s to 5 s t o r i e s show how, as c h i l d r e n , her c h a r a c t e r s are i n f l u e n c e d by s t o r i e s they hear or read and, as a d u l t s , become s t o r y t e l l e r s themselves when they remember and i n t e r p r e t t h e i r p a s t . At the same time, her c h a r a c t e r s take t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l p l a c e s w i t h i n the l a r g e r s t o r y i n which the n a r r a t i v e i n c o r p o r a t e s them, a s t o r y whose s t r u c t u r e i s c i r c u l a r and whose themes reach back to c l a s s i c a l myth. Without the embedded s t o r i e s which e i t h e r augment or undercut experience, Munro's s t o r y c y c l e s would be l e s s l i k e memory, and i t i s memory t h a t she i m i t a t e s . O r a l s t o r i e s and s t o r i e s from books appear, i n Munro's f i c t i o n because they r i g h t l y belong i n the memories of her c h a r a c t e r s , i n f l u e n c i n g them i n ways they may not understand, but i n f l u e n c i n g them p o w e r f u l l y . 6 Notes 1 F o r r e s t L Ingram, REPRESENTATIVE SHORT STORY CYCLES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), p. 13. 2 Eva-Marie K r o l l e r , " C r a f t and C r i t i c i s m , " r e v . of PROBABLE FICTIONS: ALICE MUNRO'S NARRATIVE ACTS .ed. Lo u i s K. MacKendrick, CANADIAN LITERATURE, No. 103 (1984), p. 129. 3 A l i c e Munro, "The C o l o n e l ' s Hash R e s e t t l e d , " i n THE NARRATIVE VOICE, ed. John M e t c a l f e (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson), p. 183. 7 Chapter One How S t o r i e s Shape P e r c e p t i o n , P e r s o n a l i t y and Memory Be g u i l e d by accuracy of d e t a i l i n the s e t t i n g s of the f i f t e e n s h o r t s t o r i e s t h a t comprise DANCE, the reader i s drawn i n t o the r u r a l O n t a r i o k i t c h e n s of the past?" Almost i m p e r c e p t i b l y , domestic order g i v e s way to wildness and v i o l e n c e as fox pens and meat houses begin to d i s p l a c e linoleum and rag rugs. Although A l i c e Munro s e l e c t s v i v i d s p e c i f i c d e t a i l s to r e f e r the reader to an a c t u a l time and p l a c e — S o u t h w e s t e r n O n t a r i o i n the n i n e t e e n - t h i r t i e s and f o r t i e s — s h e g i v e s r e a l i t y mythic s i g n i f i c a n c e through r e f e r e n c e s to s t o r i e s and legends. The t i t l e , DANCE OF THE. HAPPY SHADES, f o r example, p o i n t s to the Gluck opera, ORPHEO, based on the c l a s s i c a l myth of Orpheus and E u r y d i c e which c o l o u r s the e n t i r e c o l l e c t i o n . For the mainly y o u t h f u l p r o t a g o n i s t s of DANCE, growing up means d i s c o v e r i n g the l a y e r e d t e x t u r e of r e a l i t y . The n a r r a t o r s are r e s o l u t e l y unsentimental: they look back on t h e i r pasts courageously, s t r i v i n g to a v o i d the t r a p which Helen sums up i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " : "Cowardly tender  n o s t a l g i a , t r y i n g to get back to a g e n t l e r t r u t h " (p.202). These n a r r a t o r s never manage to l a y the ghosts t h a t haunt t h e i r memories, but onl y to r e i n t e r p r e t them from the 8 p e r s p e c t i v e of m a t u r i t y . "Images", "Boys and G i r l s " and "The Peace of U t r e c h t " are three key s t o r i e s which i l l u s t r a t e how Munro uses remembered s t o r i e s to convey the t e x t u r e of r e a l i t y as i t appears to her p r o t a g o n i s t s . For them, l i v i n g i s not o n l y e x p e r i e n c i n g the world, but a l s o r e f l e c t i n g upon experience, comparing i t with s t o r i e s they have read, heard, or invented themselves. T h e i r l o n g i n g f o r meaning i n e x i s t e n c e surpasses even t h e i r hunger f o r d i r e c t e xperience, and t h e i r minds c o n s t a n t l y scan the raw m a t e r i a l of t h e i r d a i l y l i v e s , r e a r r a n g i n g i t i n t o r e c o g n i z a b l e n a r r a t i v e p a t t e r n s . The female p r o t a g o n i s t s i n the chosen s t o r i e s are observed a t d i f f e r e n t c h r o n o l o g i c a l stages: the c h i l d i n "Images", the a d o l e s c e n t i n "Boys and G i r l s " , and the young matron i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " . Sharing c h a r a c t e r i s t i c c u r i o s i t y and d e t e r m i n a t i o n , the n a r r a t o r s attempt to understand the outer world, but t h e i r deeper concern i s the i n n e r world of t h e i r own natures and p o s s i b l e c h o i c e s . At these e a r l y stages i n t h e i r l i v e s , t h e i r p e r s o n a l i t i e s have not y e t hardened; they are i n the process of c r e a t i n g i d e n t i t y . T h e r e f o r e , p r i v a t e f a m i l y legends, as w e l l as s t o r i e s i n the p u b l i c domaine from f o l k l o r e , h i s t o r y and l i t e r a t u r e , supplement t h e i r l i m i t e d e x perience. Not s u r p r i s i n g l y , comparing t h e i r l i v e s with s t o r i e s i s harmful as w e l l as h e l p f u l , i n t h a t t h e i r e x p e c t a t i o n s based on f i c t i o n are f r e q u e n t l y h i g h e r than t h e i r a c t u a l circumstances can s a t i s f y . Although the p l e a s u r e s and 9 c orresponding dangers of s e l f - d r a m a t i z a t i o n are a s t a p l e of the l i t e r a t u r e of growing up, few Canadian w r i t e r s capture as w e l l as Munro does the s u b t l e weave of f a c t and f a n t a s y t h a t i s the s e n s i b i l i t y of bookish young g i r l s . Not o n l y do her heroines tend to see themselves as l i v i n g out n a r r a t i v e p a t t e r n s , but a l s o they become h y p e r - s e n s i t i v e to language. An a b i d i n g p a t t e r n i n DANCE i s the p r o t a g o n i s t s ' growing awareness of the preeminence of language as the medium f o r r e l a t i n g to others and forming a s e l f . R e p e t i t i o n of words and phrases and the use of i t a l i c s draw a t t e n t i o n to the s l i p p e r i n e s s of language, which conceals as w e l l as r e v e a l s . Although the v o i c e i s an a d u l t woman's, the eyes and ears are f r e q u e n t l y a c h i l d ' s , whose c o n f u s i o n and sense of being powerless are s t i l l p a i n f u l l y e v i d e n t when her o l d e r s e l f r e l a t e s her e a r l i e r i mpressions. In "Images", f o r example, a c h i l d i s h e l p l e s s when her own o b s e r v a t i o n s c o n t r a d i c t the r e a s s u r i n g e x p l a n a t i o n s she r e c e i v e s from a d u l t s f o r the behaviour of Mary McQuade and Joe Phippen, whose d e s t r u c t i v e power she f e e l s s t r o n g l y . She t r i e s d e s p e r a t e l y to p r o t e c t her parents from the danger she senses, but she cannot express h e r s e l f w e l l enough to a r t i c u l a t e her sense of l i v i n g i n s i d e a f a i r y t a l e , of being under a s p e l l . I t i s the o l d e r n a r r a t o r whose remembering v o i c e i s f i n a l l y able to express the dread she s u f f e r e d e a r l i e r . "Images" ex p l o r e s the time i n e a r l y l i f e when the c h i l d f i r s t becomes conscious of being separate from her mother, and, almost from the moment she knows she has a s e l f , l e a r n s 10 to f e a r death. Sense impressions are supplemented by b r i e f i n d i r e c t r e f e r e n c e s to myths and f a i r y t a l e s . Designed not to form a continuous a l l e g o r i c a l p a t t e r n , but to f l i c k e r i n and out of the t e x t , the f a i r y - t a l e elements suggest the way f a n t a s y merges with r e a l i t y i n a young c h i l d ' s mind. Yet "Images" i s more than a c h a r a c t e r study of a c h i l d i n the process of coming to terms with m o r t a l i t y ; i t i s the v e r b a l e q u i v a l e n t of an o p t i c a l i l l u s i o n . L i k e the b l a c k and white squares which i n v i t e one i n t e r p r e t a t i o n when the viewer c o n c e n t r a t e s on the b l a c k , and another when he concentrates on the white, the c h i l d ' s view of what i s happening c o n t r a d i c t s the f a t h e r ' s . Since there i s no r e s o l u t i o n of the d i s c r e p a n c y between t h e i r views, the range of p o s s i b l e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s does not narrow i n the end, as i s u s u a l l y the p a t t e r n i n s h o r t s t o r i e s . Instead, i m p l i c a t i o n s m u l t i p l y , l e a d i n g the reader not outward, but back i n s i d e the s t o r y . The p e r s i s t e n c e of paradox i n the s t o r y again suggests o p t i c a l i l l u s i o n because the design i s i t s e l f a comment upon the d i f f i c u l t y of t r a n s c e n d i n g s u b j e c t i v i t y and a r r i v i n g a t o b j e c t i v e t r u t h . The form of "Images" d i c t a t e s the absence of a c o n c l u s i v e ending: i t s three s e c t i o n s , separated by gaps i n the t e x t , f u n c t i o n as do stanzas i n a poem. The p a r t s are r e l a t e d t h e m a t i c a l l y through t h e i r common preoccupation with death, and m e t a p h o r i c a l l y through two v i l l a i n s , Mary McQuade and Joe Phippen. The n a r r a t o r remembers her f e e l i n g s about these a d u l t s when she was a c h i l d . Her p e r c e p t i o n of them 11 as e v i l and dangerous may have been d i s t o r t e d because of her a n x i e t y over her mother's i l l n e s s , or i t may have been accurate because of her innocent, unclouded v i s i o n . By a l l o w i n g both p o s s i b i l i t i e s to p e r s i s t i n the ambiguous ending, Munro i s able to suggest the p e r p l e x i n g c h a r a c t e r of human l i f e , the i n s o l u b l e problem of s e p a r a t i n g r e a l i t y from image, t r u t h from i l l u s i o n . O c c a s i o n a l l y , Munro has attempted to e x p l a i n her i n t u i t i v e approach to w r i t i n g s h o r t s t o r i e s . E x p r e s s i n g m i s g i v i n g s over symbolic i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of her work, she denies d e l i b e r a t e l y s e t t i n g up symbols i n her f i c t i o n : 1 do t h i n k symbols e x i s t , or r a t h e r , t h a t t h i n g s are symbolic, but I t h i n k t h a t t h e i r symbolism i s i n f i n i t e l y complex and never completely d i s c o v e r e d . Are there r e a l l y w r i t e r s who s i t down and say yes, w e l l , now here I-need a symbol, l e t ' s see what I have i n the f i l e s ? 2 Such n o t i o n s , Munro would agree with Annie D i l l a r d , reduce f i c t i o n w r i t e r s to "cold-blooded manipulators and gadgeteers who f o r genius s u b s t i t u t e a bag of t r i c k s " ? While prose f i c t i o n i s undoubtedly a r t i f a c e — o r " i l l u s i o n " , to use the term of which Munro i s f o n d — i t has a s o l i d b a s i s i n the w r i t e r ' s remembered e x p e r i e n c e . Joe Phippen i s not a mere puppet, whose s t r i n g s , when tweaked, a c t i v a t e the a n c i e n t f i g u r e of P l u t o , l o r d of the underworld. Rather, as she goes on to e x p l a i n , he i s a composite p o r t r a i t of men who once e x i s t e d : "His ancestors were a few o l d men, h a l f h e r m i t s , h a l f madmen, o f t e n p a r a n o i d , o c c a s i o n a l l y 12 dangerous, l i v i n g around the country where I grew up, not l i v i n g i n the woods but i n o l d farm-houses, o l d f a m i l y homes". A f i g u r e b elonging to r u r a l O n t a r i o i n the Depression y e a r s , he i s t r u e to h i s t o r y as w e l l as myth. D i s c u s s i n g the r e l a t i o n between t r u t h and f i c t i o n i n i n t e r v i e w s and essays, Munro agrees with D.H. Lawrence's o b s e r v a t i o n s : The c u r i o u s t h i n g about a r t - s p e e c h i s t h a t i t p r e v a r i c a t e s so t e r r i b l y , I mean i t t e l l s such l i e s . I suppose because we always a l l the time t e l l o u r s e l v e s l i e s . And out of a p a t t e r n of l i e s , a r t weaves the t r u t h 5 The s t o r y t e l l e r ' s paradox Munro accepts as g i v e n , u s i n g i t as a source of t e n s i o n i n her work. At times, her comments on the c r e a t i v e process r e c a l l statements made by the Romantics, who saw the poet as p o s s e s s i n g heightened i n s i g h t i n t o u n i v e r s a l t r u t h , and e x p r e s s i n g i t through a r t . The c r e a t i v e p r o c e s s , as she understands i t , does not lend i t s e l f to d i s c u r s i v e a n a l y s i s , but i s almost m y s t i c a l . Munro i s hard-pressed to e x p l a i n why she juxtaposes c e r t a i n scenes or chooses c e r t a i n d e t a i l s from her memory: But the f a c t i s , the minute I say to show I am t e l l i n g a l i e . I don't do i t to show anything. I put t h i s s t o r y a t the h e a r t of my s t o r y because I need i t there and i t belongs t h e r e . o She cannot say why she knows something belongs i n a s t o r y , but she r e w r i t e s each s t o r y many times s e a r c h i n g f o r the p a t t e r n which she w i l l r e c o g n i z e when i t f i n a l l y emerges. 13 T h e r e f o r e , a t t e n t i o n to even the s m a l l e s t d e t a i l i n a Munro s h o r t s t o r y rewards the reader because her numerous r e v i s i o n s have condensed the m a t e r i a l u n t i l what remains i s a d i s t i l l a t i o n of a much longer work. C l e a r l y , each element i n the f i n a l d r a f t i s bonded to the others a t the deepest l e v e l of the w r i t e r ' s consciousness. The f i r s t p a t t e r n t h a t emerges i n DANCE i s the obvious one of f a i t h f u l l y recorded events t a k i n g p l a c e i n a s p e c i f i c time and p l a c e . As Alan Twigg says i n h i s i n t e r v i e w with A l i c e Munro, "Your w r i t i n g i s l i k e the p e r f e c t l i t e r a r y e q u i v a l e n t to a documentary movie".'' In the case of "Images", however, the movie camera i s h e l d by the p r o t a g o n i s t . The i l l u s i o n i s of a c h i l d ' s p e r c e p t i o n s remembered with a completeness and v i v i d n e s s u n l i k e l y i n a c t u a l experience, but p l a u s i b l e as Munro renders i t , u s i n g the f l a t tones of everyday speech. The c h i l d ' s impressions are a p p r o p r i a t e l y blended from r e a l i t y and f a n t a s y , the d i s t i n c t i o n between them b l u r r e d , as i s o f t e n the case i n e a r l y c h i l d h o o d . The c h i l d ' s mind feeds on f a n t a s y and c r e a t e s i t s own f a n t a s i e s as i t s t r u g g l e s to understand i t s world. In THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, Bruno B e t t e l h e i m e x p l a i n s how f a i r y s t o r i e s not o n l y nurture the c h i l d ' s i m a g i n a t i o n , but a l s o encourage him to c o n f r o n t v i c a r i o u s l y and i n s i m p l i f i e d form the urgent e x i s t e n t i a l q u e s t i o n s he w i l l meet l a t e r : I t i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of f a i r y t a l e s to s t a t e an e x i s t e n t i a l dilemma b r i e f l y and p o i n t e d l y . T h i s 14 permits the c h i l d to come to g r i p s with the problem i n i t s most e s s e n t i a l form, where a more complex p l o t would confuse matters f o r him. The f a i r y t a l e s i m p l i f i e s a l l s i t u a t i o n s . 8 The e x i s t e n t i a l q u e s t i o n the c h i l d p r o t a g o n i s t c o n f r o n t s i n "Images" concerns her own m o r t a l i t y , but i t presents i t s e l f i n the form of f e a r of becoming separated from her mother and f a t h e r , j u s t as she has been cut o f f from her g r a n d f a t h e r . When he d i e d , she was too young to comprehend death. I t seems to her t h a t he has disappeared. F i r s t h i s name disappeared, as people began c a l l i n g the house "Grandmother's house", and then he h i m s e l f disappeared. What a c t u a l l y became of her grandfather remains a mystery; she understands o n l y t h a t h i s departure i s l i n k e d to Mary McQuade 1s a r r i v a l . T h e r e f o r e , her i n s t i n c t i v e response to the dead muskrat d i s c o v e r e d i n her f a t h e r ' s t r a p i s a l o n g i n g to touch t h i s " f a c t of death" (p. 36). The dead animal f i n a l l y r e v e a l s death as presence r a t h e r than absence. Only by h a n d l i n g the l i f e l e s s body can she begin to a p p r e c i a t e what dying means. Although her understanding i s l i m i t e d by her i n e x p e r i e n c e , an e a r l y mention of her mother's s t o r y t e l l i n g e s t a b l i s h e s t h a t she a l r e a d y has access to s t o r i e s and legends. The s t o r i e s she remembers her mother t e l l i n g her are the s i n g l e concrete i n s t a n c e of the c l o s e n e s s which once e x i s t e d between h e r s e l f and her mother before her mother's i l l n e s s : She had f o r g o t t e n a l l her s t o r i e s which were about P r i n c e s i n the Tower and a queen g e t t i n g her head 15 knows i n these n a r r a t i v e s , and i t i s p l a i n t h a t she enjoys h e a r i n g them. The gap between mother as s t o r y t e l l e r and as c h a r a c t e r i n her s t o r i e s adds to the c h i l d ' s i n t e r e s t . The same p o i n t i s made again by the n a r r a t o r of "The S h i n i n g Houses", who i s c u r i o u s enough about the o l d egg woman to s i t on her porch l i s t e n i n g to her l i f e h i s t o r y : And Mary found h e r s e l f e x p l o r i n g her neighbour's l i f e as she had once exp l o r e d the l i v e s of grandmothers and a u n t s — b y p r e t e n d i n g to know l e s s than she d i d , asking f o r some s t o r y she had heard b e f o r e . . . (p. 19) Mary's subsequent l o y a l t y to the egg woman, ev i d e n t i n her r e f u s a l to s i g n the neighborhood p e t i t i o n a g a i n s t her, a r i s e s out of the bond between s t o r y t e l l e r and l i s t e n e r . Through her s t o r i e s about her p a s t , Mrs. F u l l e r t o n e s t a b l i s h e s her r i g h t to remain i n her tumbledown house a g a i n s t the wishes of the suburbanites to enhance t h e i r p r o p e r t y v a l u e s . In t h i s i n s t a n c e , the s t o r y t e l l e r - l i s t e n e r bond becomes an o b j e c t i v e c o r r e l a t i v e f o r a r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s not f r i e n d s h i p but a complex f e e l i n g of k i n s h i p , based p a r t l y on c l a s s l o y a l t y , and p a r t l y on r e s p e c t f o r i n d i v i d u a l i t y . In the h i g h l y condensed s h o r t - s t o r y form there i s not s u f f i c i e n t room to do more than suggest the bond between the n a r r a t o r and Mrs. F u l l e r t o n ; n e v e r t h e l e s s , Munro 1s i n s t i n c t f o r the one necessary d e t a i l i s u n e r r i n g . By c o n f i d i n g the s t o r y of her husband's departure and f a i l u r e to r e t u r n , Mrs. F u l l e r t o n develops from a two-dimensional neighborhood e c c e n t r i c i n t o a t h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l i n d i v i d u a l with hopes and dreams as v a l i d 16 which i s not f r i e n d s h i p but a complex f e e l i n g of k i n s h i p , based p a r t l y on c l a s s l o y a l t y , and p a r t l y on r e s p e c t f o r i n d i v i d u a l i t y . In the h i g h l y condensed s h o r t - s t o r y form there i s not s u f f i c i e n t room to do more than suggest the bond between the n a r r a t o r and Mrs. F u l l e r t o n ; n e v e r t h e l e s s , Munro 1s i n s t i n c t f o r the one necessary d e t a i l i s u n e r r i n g . By c o n f i d i n g the s t o r y of her husband's departure and f a i l u r e to r e t u r n , Mrs. F u l l e r t o n develops from a two-dimensional neighborhood e c c e n t r i c i n t o a t h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l i n d i v i d u a l with hopes and dreams as v a l i d as those shared by the young couples scheming to d i s p l a c e her. S i m i l a r l y , i n "Images", the mother's s t o r i e s develop both s e t t i n g and theme. Not o n l y do they a c c u r a t e l y r e f l e c t the b i a s of Canadian schools of the p e r i o d f o r B r i t i s h , r a t h e r than Canadian h i s t o r y , but they a l s o s u g g e s t — t h r o u g h r e f e r e n c e s to the murdered p r i n c e s and beheaded q u e e n — t h e c h i l d ' s growing pre o c c u p a t i o n with death. When the mother stops t e l l i n g s t o r i e s , the c h i l d assumes t h a t she has f o r g o t t e n them, j u s t as she f o r g e t s the afghan squares which she c r o c h e t s . L i k e the afghan's p u r p l e squares, the c o l o u r of mourning, the s i l e n c e d s t o r y t e l l e r i m p l i e s death; the s t o r y t e l l i n g mother r e c a l l s Scheherezade, who postponed her death by c o n t i n u i n g to t e l l s t o r i e s : Scheherezade must go on t e l l i n g s t o r i e s — s t o r i e s t h a t compel the l i s t e n e r — o r t h a t same mad and sane l i s t e n e r , t h a t k i n g , her husband, w i l l put her to death. She must i n v e n t l i f e , l i t e r a l l y , by t e l l i n g s t o r i e s . 9 L i n k i n g the mother i n "Images" to Scheherezade need not depend on Munro's conscious i n t e n t i o n . As Northrop Frye has shown, the process of r e a d i n g i n e v i t a b l y leads back and f o r t h between the i n d i v i d u a l l i t e r a r y work and l i t e r a t u r e as a whole; the i m p l i c a t i o n s of a s t o r y d e r i v e not from r e l e v a n c e to l i f e , but r a t h e r from r e l a t i o n to l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n : " L i t e r a r y shape cannot come from l i f e , i t comes ,. 10 o n l y from l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n , and so u l t i m a t e l y from myth". N e v e r t h e l e s s , the search f o r meaning i s not c o n f i n e d to l i t e r a t u r e . By w r i t i n g from the viewpoint of a r e f l e c t i v e n a r r a t o r l o o k i n g back on her p a s t , Munro conveys the f a m i l i a r experience of attempting to see meaning i n one's l i f e . Munro does not so much c r e a t e " r e a l people, s i t u a t i o n s and p l a c e s who come to l i f e i n the h e a r t s and 11 minds of the reader", as she c r e a t e s a sense of being i n s i d e the n a r r a t i v e c o n s c i o u s n e s s . Whereas c r i t i c s marvel at Munro's t o t a l r e c a l l of the p a s t , they o f t e n overlook her g i f t f o r evoking a c h i l d ' s way of p e r c e i v i n g . For t h i s purpose she has invented a k i n d of shorthand based on word a s s o c i a t i o n , through which she suggests how the c h i l d understands and misunderstands i t s world. Repeatedly, Munro shows the c h i l d r e a c t i n g to language, h e a r i n g i n i t nuances t h a t the a d u l t misses or tunes out through f a m i l i a r i t y : She spoke of h e r s e l f g l o o m i l y i n the t h i r d person, s a y i n g , "Be c a r e f u l , don't h u r t Mother, don't s i t on Mother's l e g s . " Every time she 18 s a i d Mother I f e l t c h i l l e d , and a k i n d of wretchedness and shame spread through me as i t d i d a t the name of Jesus. T h i s Mother t h a t my own r e a l , warm-necked i r r a s c i b l e and comforting human mother s e t up between us was an e v e r l a s t i n g l y wounded phantom, sorrowing l i k e Him over a l l the wickedness I d i d not y e t know I would commit, (p. 33) By d i s c u s s i n g nuances of meaning suggested by the word, "Mother", Munro makes the c h i l d ' s f e e l i n g s of estrangement and g u i l t d i s t i n c t f o r the reader. C r i t i c s such as Helen Hoy have examined A l i c e Munro's use of paradox and oxymorons i n order to express the mysterious and c o n t r a d i c t o r y t e x t u r e of l i f e . The t i t l e s t o r y i n p a r t i c u l a r expresses the e x t r a o r d i n a r y beneath the o r d i n a r y s u r f a c e of Miss M a r s a l l e s ' music r e c i t a l by means of oxymorons. The music which the r e t a r d e d Delores Boyle p l a y s so b e a u t i f u l l y produces "unemotional happiness" (p. 222), the f a c e s of the Misses M a r s a l l e s are " k i n d l y and grotesque" (p. 214), and t h e i r o l d f a m i l y home i n Rosedale i s " p o e t i c a l l y u g l y " (p. 213). These examples support Hoy's c o n t e n t i o n t h a t Munro's l i n k i n g of l i n g u i s t i c i n c o n g r u i t i e s i s not merely a q u i r k of style> but r e f l e c t s her double 1 9 v i s i o n of r e a l i t y , a t once o r d i n a r y and e x t r a o r d i n a r y Another r h e t o r i c a l d e v i c e which a c t s as a s t r u c t u r a l l i n k i s zeugma, the r e p e t i t i o n of the same verb i n a f o l l o w i n g sentence, but with a d i f f e r e n t meaning. When the n a r r a t o r of "Images" says t h a t her mother f o r g o t about her afghan squares, and adds i n the next sentence t h a t she had f o r g o t t e n a l l her s t o r i e s , the two meanings of the verb are 19 not r e a l l y the same: the squares l i e n e g l e c t e d among the bedcovers, while the s t o r i e s cannot be r e c a l l e d to mind. Not o n l y does the r e p e t i t i o n u n i f y the n a r r a t o r ' s s c a t t e r e d memories, but a l s o i t strengthens the i l l u s i o n of a c h i l d ' s mind attempting to understand what i s happening to her mother, but drawing wrong c o n c l u s i o n s as a r e s u l t of i n e x p e r i e n c e i n i n t e r p r e t i n g language. S i m i l a r l y , the c h i l d ' s d i s t r u s t of Mary McQuade i s c o n s i s t e n t with her a s s o c i a t i v e h a b i t of mind. Too young to comprehend cause and e f f e c t , she f e a r s Mary because of her memory of Mary's presence i n the house when her grandfather d i e d . Again, i n "The O f f i c e " , Mr. Malley misunderstands the n a r r a t o r f o r s i m i l a r reasons. Although he has no previous experience with w r i t e r s as tenants, he has preconceived ideas of how w r i t e r s behave. As the n a r r a t o r says, " W r i t i n g and lewdness had a vague d e l i c i o u s c o n n e c t i o n i n h i s mind" (p. 67). L i k e the c h i l d i n "Images", he does not reason l o g i c a l l y , but l i n k s ideas through a s s o c i a t i o n . Language, then, which must be used as the medium of thought, i s i t s e l f a source of confused t h i n k i n g . In "Images", ask i n g Mary to rub her back, the mother says, "Mary, I'm dying f o r you to rub my back" (p. 33). T h i s , l i t e r a l l y , i s the c h i l d ' s view of what i s happening. By f o c u s i n g on the c h i l d ' s l i t e r a l response to language, Munro shows how a n x i e t y i s d i s t o r t i n g her p e r c e p t i o n and exaggerating the danger she f e e l s surrounding her. Her view of the s i t u a t i o n i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h Bruno Bettelheim's 20 account of the way young c h i l d r e n see t h e i r world: A young c h i l d ' s mind c o n t a i n s a r a p i d l y expanding c o l l e c t i o n of o f t e n i l l - a s s o r t e d and o n l y p a r t i a l l y i n t e g r a t e d impressions: some c o r r e c t l y seen aspects of r e a l i t y , but many more elements completely dominated by f a n t a s y . Fantasy f i l l s the huge gaps i n a c h i l d ' s understanding which are due to the immaturity of h i s t h i n k i n g and h i s l a c k of p e r t i n e n t i n f o r m a t i o n . 13 The f a n t a s y which the c h i l d i n "Images" i n v e n t s out of the c o n f u s i o n of language and d i r e c t experience i s a f a i r y t a l e concocted from a medley of f a m i l i a r f a i r y t a l e s , but not adhering s t r i c t l y to any one p l o t . I t has a g i a n t e s s , Mary McQuade, whose presence i n the household c a s t s a s p e l l over i t s occupants, and a journey through a dark wood, where a s e r i e s of t r i a l s s u c c e s s f u l l y undergone leads to an e v e n t u a l happy outcome. Mary McQuade, the g i a n t e s s , i s power p e r s o n i f i e d : the b i g b u l l y i n g a d u l t who e n t e r s the household, comes between the c h i l d and her mother, and l a t e r , between the c h i l d and her f a t h e r . The n a r r a t o r c o n s t a n t l y enlarges Mary's s i z e because s i z e i m p l i e s power. In her white uniform a t the g r a n d f a t h e r ' s bedside, she i s " b i g and gloomy as an i c e b e r g " (p. 31), an o b j e c t a s s o c i a t e d w i t h death through the T i t a n i c d i s a s t e r , as w e l l as the d e a t h l i k e coldness of i c e . L a t e r , p l a y i n g p r a c t i c a l jokes on the f a t h e r , Mary s w e l l s up l i k e a b u l l f r o g . The n a r r a t o r accentuates the impression of a l a r g e , looming f i g u r e by f o c u s i n g on separate p a r t s of Mary's body, e n l a r g i n g and d i s t o r t i n g them u n t i l her l e g s , 21 r i s i n g out of a b a s i n of hot water, become "round as d r a i n p i p e s " (p. 32), and her head c a s t s a huge shadow on the k i t c h e n w a l l : "My f a t h e r and Mary McQuade threw g i g a n t i c shadows, whose heads wagged c l u m s i l y with t h e i r t a l k and laughing" (p. 35). Because he has f a l l e n under Mary's s p e l l , the f a t h e r ' s shadow enlarges too. When h i s enormous head appears next to hers, the f a t h e r becomes Mary's accomplice, j o i n i n g the l e g i o n of duped f a i r y - t a l e f a t h e r s m i s l e d by witch-stepmothers whose e v i l powers are obvious to t h e i r daughters. J u s t as Snow White's wicked stepmother works her b l a c k magic by means of a poisoned apple, Mary McQuade's s i n i s t e r power a l t e r s not o n l y the food she prepares, but a l s o a l l food eaten i n her presence. The c h i l d r e c o g n i z e s the presence of a w i t c h by the strange t a s t e of the food, as w e l l as the strange smell i n the house. The spellbound p a r e n t s , however, are unaware of what i s happening. The mother c a l l s the c h i l d s i l l y when she mentions Mary's c h a r a c t e r i s t i c odour, and the f a t h e r wholeheartedly endorses the changes Mary makes i n t h e i r d i e t , t e l l i n g her, "Mary, you know what i t i s a man ought to e a t ! " (p. 34). Mary's d u p l i c i t y i s another f a m i l i a r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of f a i r y - t a l e w itches. The c h i l d doubts e v e r y t h i n g Mary says. She i s convinced t h a t though Mary pretends to h e l p , she r e a l l y intends to harm. A s t u t e l y , she r e a l i z e s t h a t Mary has her own suppressed reasons f o r adopting the r o l e of n u r s e - c o n f i d a n t e to the f a m i l y , and t h a t , " I f she had never 22 come my mother would never have taken to her bed" (p. 33). I f Mary had not been a v a i l a b l e to take over the household, the mother might indeed have s t r u g g l e d longer b e f o r e succumbing to her i l l n e s s . Because a w i t c h can always p r e v a i l through her s u p e r n a t u r a l power, the c h i l d obeys Mary, who f o r c e s her o f f her mother's bed and out i n t o the yard, where she puts her to work handing up c l o t h e s p i n s . The motif of outward obedience and i n n e r r e b e l l i o n i s f a m i l i a r i n f a i r y t a l e s about c h i l d r e n captured by w i t c h e s . T r a d i t i o n a l l y , the o n l y way to overcome a w i t c h i s to outwit her. When the c h i l d pretends not to remember Mary from the p r e v i o u s summer, she i s u s i n g her w i t s i n her attempt to break f r e e of the s p e l l . As she e x p l a i n s , " I t seemed the w i s e s t t h i n g to do" (p. 30). The p l o y seems e f f e c t i v e , because Mary counters by attempting to make the c h i l d admit remembering her. From then on, the c h i l d sees Mary as her adversary: every encounter becomes a c o n t e s t . The more Mary f o r c e s the c h i l d to submit, the more the c h i l d sees her as inhuman and w i t c h l i k e . Although Mary's behaviour i s never u n e q u i v o c a l l y s u p e r n a t u r a l , the n a r r a t o r never r e p u d i a t e s the c h i l d i s h c o n c e p t i o n of her as a w i t c h ; t h e r e f o r e , these f a i r y - t a l e elements remain attached to Mary's c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n . For much of the s t o r y , Mary i s a c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r ; however, she i s not present d u r i n g the f a i r y - t a l e journey which forms the middle s e c t i o n of "Images". Although Munro does not r e t e l l any p a r t i c u l a r t a l e , she uses elements 23 common to many f a i r y t a l e s : the s e t t i n g i n a wood, the sudden appearance of a t h r e a t e n i n g f i g u r e and the v i s i t to a s i n i s t e r d w e l l i n g . At the end of the journey, when the c h i l d r e t u r n s home, she d i s c o v e r s t h a t she has stopped f e a r i n g Mary. D i s r e g a r d i n g the journey's f a i r y - t a l e elements, the reader may a l s o i n t e r p r e t i t as the f a t h e r does, as a walk around h i s t r a p l i n e , an encounter with an e c c e n t r i c neighbour and v i s i t to the c e l l a r of h i s burned-out home. The double focus p e r s i s t s to the end of the s t o r y . U n l i k e the p a t t e r n t h a t Margaret Laurence employs i n A BIRD IN THE HOUSE—that of a p r o t a g o n i s t maturing i n t o f u l l e r understanding which enables her to f i n a l l y see the t r u t h — M u n r o ' s s t o r i e s suggest t h a t t r u t h always remains e l u s i v e . M a t u r i t y i s l i k e l y to b r i n g not g r e a t e r c e r t a i n t y but g r e a t e r awareness of complexity. The c h a r a c t e r s who get nea r e s t the t r u t h are f r e q u e n t l y those whose s i m p l i c i t y c l a r i f i e s t h e i r v i s i o n . In DANCE, Munro a s s i g n s p e n e t r a t i n g i n s i g h t to c h i l d r e n or the innocent o l d , l i k e Miss M a r s a l l e s i n the t i t l e s t o r y , who i s not s u r p r i s e d when one of her r e t a r d e d students proves to be a t a l e n t e d musician: But i t seems t h a t the g i r l ' s p l a y i n g l i k e t h i s i s something she always expected, and she f i n d s i t n a t u r a l and s a t i s f y i n g , (p. 223) The s a i n t l y Miss M a r s a l l e s accepts t a l e n t as a mysterious b l e s s i n g which may crop up anywhere. I t i s the m i d d l e - c l a s s 24 mothers i n the audience who are d i s t u r b e d by the di s c r e p a n c y between the young p i a n i s t ' s mental handicap and her s u p e r i o r musical a b i l i t y . A p p r o p r i a t e l y enough, the piano s o l o which confounds the audience i s from Gluck's opera, ORPHEO, based on the s t o r y of Orpheus and E u r y d i c e . The Dance of the Happy Shades occurs i n the second a c t of the opera a f t e r Orpheo has succeeded i n winning the sympathies of the F u r i e s by the sweetness of h i s music, and they have p e r m i t t e d him to enter the V a l l e y of the B l e s t : By choosing t h i s s e l e c t i o n f o r the r e t a r d e d g i r l ' s r e c i t a l p i e c e , Munro i m p l i e s t h a t the young p i a n i s t and Miss M a r s a l l e s share the s e r e n i t y of the b l e s s e d s p i r i t s of the E l y s i a n F i e l d s . Other c l a s s i c a l a l l u s i o n s a l s o appear i n "Images", where they are combined with elements of medieval romance. L i k e the lady of romance, the c h i l d i s p r o t e c t e d by her kni g h t ( f a t h e r ) . L a t e r , i n the v i s i t to Joe Phippen's underground home, she r e c a l l s Persephone, who bound h e r s e l f to the Underworld by e a t i n g pomegranate seeds. Joe g i v e s the c h i l d candies t h a t "had a t a s t e of n a i l s " (p. 41). Joe Phippen h i m s e l f suggests P l u t o , King of Hades, and Ben Jordan evokes c l a s s i c a l heroes l i k e Orpheus, who descend to the Underworld on rescue m i s s i o n s . Even Joe's c a t i s a 25 comic v e r s i o n of Cerberus, the three-headed dog a t the gates of Hades. Another l i n k between c l a s s i c a l myths and the journey i n "Images", l i e s i n i t s dreamlike atmosphere, as i f i t were" t a k i n g p l a c e o u t s i d e time and space. When the c h i l d wakens a f t e r being c a r r i e d by her f a t h e r , she i s a s t o n i s h e d to d i s c o v e r t h a t the woods she sees now are the f a m i l i a r ones she has seen from the windows of t h e i r own house. J u s t as Miss M a r s a l l e s of the t i t l e s t o r y i s beyond p i t y because she i n h a b i t s "the other country" (p. 224), the c h i l d has been l i v i n g on a d i f f e r e n t plane from her everyday one. The journey has served i t s r i t u a l purpose: l i k e the k n i g h t ' s journey i n medieval romance, i t was to p r o v i d e a t r i a l through adventure, "the r e a l meaning of the k n i g h t ' s i d e a l e x i s t e n c e " . ^ A c c o r d i n g l y , the c h i l d ' s c l a i m t h a t she no longer f e a r s Mary i s b e l i e v a b l e ; her f e a r of death has been conquered by her v i s i t t o , and safe r e t u r n from, the underground house, a metaphor of death and r e b i r t h . Undoubtedly, the t e x t of "Images" a l s o supports a common-sense view of Joe Phippen, j u s t as i t supports a common-sense view of Mary McQuade as bossy s p i n s t e r r a t h e r than w i t c h . But the s u p e r n a t u r a l aura around both c h a r a c t e r s which r e s u l t s from Munro's use of f a i r y - t a l e , romance and c l a s s i c a l p a t t e r n s adds f u r t h e r dimensions to the s t o r y . Even the t i t l e , "Images", encourages s p e c u l a t i o n along symbolic l i n e s , and the s t r o n g statement i n the c o n c l u d i n g paragraph, "our f e a r s are based on nothing but 26 the t r u t h " (p. 43), confirms the view t h a t both f a i r y - t a l e and r e a l i s t i c elements are r e f l e c t i o n s of the t r u t h . I f not d e l i b e r a t e l y , A l i c e Munro u n c o n s c i o u s l y e x p l o i t s the m o t i f s of o l d myths and t a l e s to suggest mysterious depths below the s u r f a c e of o r d i n a r y l i f e . Ambivalent f e e l i n g s about her a r t , as shown by a c e r t a i n d i s t r u s t of s t o r y t e l l i n g , are a l r e a d y e v i d e n t i n t h i s f i r s t c o l l e c t i o n . In "Images", she c a l l s a t t e n t i o n to the ease with which the s t o r y t e l l e r may a l t e r the t r u t h when she shows the f a t h e r persuading h i s daughter not to t e l l her mother and Mary McQuade the whole s t o r y of t h e i r encounter with Joe Phippen: " A f t e r a while he s a i d , 'What are you not going to mention about?' and I s a i d , 'The axe'" (p. 42). O b v i o u s l y , the axe i s c r u c i a l to the s t o r y ; l e a v i n g i t out changes Joe from a dangerous f i g u r e to a comic one. The s t o r y t e l l e r possesses c o n s i d e r a b l e power, and i s able to use language not o n l y to d e s c r i b e events but a l s o to i n f l u e n c e them. In "Boys and G i r l s " , the n a r r a t o r ' s i n f l u e n c e over her younger b r o t h e r i s strengthened by the t a l e s of bats and s k e l e t o n s which she t e l l s him a t bedtime. When he i s very young, she f o r c e s him to a c t out a r o l e i n one of her s t o r i e s : she urges him up the barn ladder so t h a t she may have the t h r i l l of r e p o r t i n g to her parents t h a t he i s i n danger. L a i r d i s too young to t e l l them t h a t c l i m b i n g the ladder was her i d e a , but he i s o l d e r when she persuades him to hide i n the barn and watch t h e i r f a t h e r and the h i r e d man shoot an o l d horse. Since the o l d e r s i s t e r must r e l y on 27 L a i r d ' s promise to keep the s e c r e t , her power di m i n i s h e s once L a i r d i s capable of p u t t i n g the experience i n t o words. In f a c t , L a i r d ' s growing a b i l i t y to t e l l p a r a l l e l s h i s growing p h y s i c a l s t r e n g t h . S h o r t l y a f t e r the f i g h t i n which he n e a r l y succeeds i n p h y s i c a l l y overpowering h i s s i s t e r , L a i r d surpasses her to become the dominant c h i l d i n the f a m i l y when he t e l l s t h e i r f a t h e r t h a t she opened the gate and allowed the horse to escape. Power, the theme of "Boys and G i r l s " , i s conceived as a balance with L a i r d on one s i d e and h i s s i s t e r on the other: as one r i s e s , the other must f a l l . Even the boy's name, L a i r d , meaning the p r o p r i e t o r of a landed e s t a t e , has connotations of power. I t i s a name which f o r e t e l l s the outcome of the b r o t h e r - s i s t e r s t r u g g l e : the male h e i r must succeed. Not o n l y does the n a r r a t o r t e l l s t o r i e s to her b r o t h e r , but a l s o she t e l l s them to h e r s e l f . Her f a n t a s i e s r e v e a l hopes and f e a r s a t odds with her bossy and b e l l i g e r e n t behaviour. R e s t l e s s and f r u s t r a t e d by her mother's i n c r e a s i n g p ressure on her to he l p with the housework, she escapes i n t o romantic daydreams i n which she accomplishes d a r i n g wartime rescues and f e a t s of shooting and horseback r i d i n g . Although these f a n t a s i e s are commonplace, t h e i r v ery b a n a l i t y i s poignant, suggesting the u n i v e r s a l r e s i s t a n c e of the young to the c o n s t r a i n t s and r e p e t i t i o n of a d u l t l i f e . The daydreams are o b v i o u s l y i n f l u e n c e d by American Western n o v e l s , a genre i n which Munro h e r s e l f was w e l l read as a g i r l : 28 I used to make up these s t o r i e s which were i m i t a t i o n s of t h i n g s I read. I read Zane Grey and so I used to make up a l o t of s t o r i e s i n which I was a shooting from the h i p western c o w g i r l and t h i n g s l i k e t h a t . 1° J u s t as Munro drew on her r e a d i n g , the n a r r a t o r of "Boys and G i r l s " i n c o r p o r a t e s the v i c a r i o u s experience gained from books i n t o her f a n t a s i e s , c r e a t i n g an a l t e r n a t e world i n which p o s s i b i l i t i e s are l i m i t l e s s . Moving from the world of im a g i n a t i o n back to the a c t u a l world i s a d i f f i c u l t adjustment f o r the n a r r a t o r , as i t i s f o r a l l c h i l d r e n who los e themselves i n books, completely i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h the c h a r a c t e r s . The h i s t o r i a n W. L Morton has d e s c r i b e d how, as a p r a i r i e youngster who read c o n s t a n t l y , he f e l t as though he l i v e d i n two separate worlds: Thus my a c t u a l landscape, the one my neighbours had made and worked i n with apparent content, and my l i t e r a r y landscape from the banks and braes of Bonnie Doon to the long beaches of C o r a l I s l a n d , were i n c o n f l i c t . I had no s i n g l e v i s i o n f o r both, but had to r e f o c u s l i k e one pa s s i n g from dark to l i g h t . Nor was the c o n f l i c t to cease f o r many y e a r s . 1 ? As a c h i l d , the n a r r a t o r of "Boys and G i r l s " experiences the same c o n f l i c t ; her re a d i n g encourages her to see h e r s e l f i n r o l e s i ncompatible with the l i m i t e d f u t u r e a g i r l of her c l a s s i n her time and p l a c e can reasonably expect. L a t e r i n l i f e , however, she uses her readi n g t o he l p her to i n t e r p r e t e x p e r i e n c e . She can compare her f a t h e r ' s arrangement of h i s fox pens to a medieval town, and h i s s a t i s f a c t i o n t h a t he 29 d e r i v e s from farm work to h i s d e l i g h t i n ROBINSON CRUSOE, h i s f a v o u r i t e book. To convey the f r u s t r a t i o n she f e l t as an a d o l e s c e n t , the remembering n a r r a t o r ponders the connotations of the word, " g i r l " , thereby suggesting the c o n f l i c t between her vague l o n g i n g to express both the dominating and submissive s i d e s of her nature, and the opposing f o r c e s of her s o c i e t y e x p e c t i n g her to r e p r e s s her a g r e s s i v e tendencies and become p a s s i v e . Her dual nature has now become a source of g u i l t : The word g i r l had f o r m e r l y seemed to me innocent and unburdened l i k e the word c h i l d ; now i t appeared t h a t i t was no such t h i n g . A g i r l was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; i t was what I had to become, (p. 119) The e r o s i o n of the n a r r a t o r ' s e a r l i e r c o n f i d e n c e i s shown c o n v i n c i n g l y by her uneasiness over the word, " g i r l " . From her grandmother, she l e a r n s t h a t a g i r l must be good-tempered, modest and i n c u r i o u s about e v e r y t h i n g o u t s i d e her narrow sphere. From her mother she l e a r n s t h a t her sphere i s l i m i t e d to the house, where she must perform r e p e t i t i v e and unimportant work: I t seemed to me t h a t work i n the house was e n d l e s s , d r e a r y and p e c u l i a r l y d e p r e s s i n g ; work done out of doors, and i n my f a t h e r ' s s e r v i c e , was r i t u a l i s t i c a l l y important, (p. 117) Since she r e s e n t s h e l p i n g her mother with housework, she wonders whether she can c a l l h e r s e l f a g i r l . The same n o t i o n of a word a c q u i r i n g such a heavy 30 burden of meaning t h a t the n a r r a t o r i s r e l u c t a n t to use i t r e c u r s i n "The O f f i c e " . The w r i t e r - n a r r a t o r f i n d s i t d i f f i c u l t to s t a t e her p r o f e s s i o n simply and n a t u r a l l y : But here comes the d i s c l o s u r e which i s not easy f o r me: I am a w r i t e r . That does not sound r i g h t . Too presumptuous; phony, or a t l e a s t unconvincing. Try a g a i n . I w r i t e . Is t h a t b e t t e r ? I t r y to w r i t e . That makes i t worse. H y p o c r i t i c a l h u m i l i t y . Well then? (p. 59) L i k e the w o r d , " g i r l " , the word, " w r i t e r " , i s not merely d e s c r i p t i v e , but has become a normative term. The c l a i m to be a w r i t e r i s a t a c i t d e c l a r a t i o n t h a t one not o n l y w r i t e s but w r i t e s w e l l ; not o n l y w r i t e s w e l l but i s p u b l i s h e d . By f o c u s i n g on the connotations of the word, " w r i t e r " , Munro suggests the problematic nature of the f i c t i o n a l i z i n g p r o c e s s . She extends the i r o n y by having the l a n d l o r d make up s t o r i e s . Since h i s s t o r i e s are d e l u s i o n s , they r a i s e doubts about the t r u t h of a l l s t o r i e s , "The O f f i c e " as much as the r e s t . In "Boys and G i r l s " , the phrase, "only a g i r l " , b r a c k e t s the a c t i o n of the s t o r y . F i r s t used by the feed salesman, whose o p i n i o n i s unimportant, i t i s f i n a l l y repeated by the f a t h e r , whose o p i n i o n i s c r u c i a l to the daughter's s e l f - e s t e e m . R e p e t i t i o n of a key phrase i s a f a v o u r i t e r h e t o r i c a l d e v i c e i n DANCE, e n a b l i n g Munro to u n i f y the n a r r a t o r ' s memories to f u r t h e r her theme. In "Thanks f o r the Ride" as w e l l , the phrase "I always t h i n k i t ' s l o v e l y f o r people to have t h i n g s " ( p . 50) i s used by L o i s ' s mother f i r s t , and then p i c k e d up again by the male n a r r a t o r , annoyed at L o i s f o r her v u l g a r i t y i n d i s c u s s i n g her c l o t h e s and t h e i r c o s t . The n a r r a t o r , who earns a s l a p f o r mocking L o i s f o r her p r e t e n s i o n s , l a t e r r e a l i z e s t h a t he had no r i g h t to b e l i t t l e her standards, and r e g r e t s having r e v e a l e d h i s contempt. In "Boys and G i r l s " , however, the s t o r y ends with the g i r l n a r r a t o r a c c e p t i n g the o n l y - a - g i r l l a b e l . She g i v e s way to her b r o t h e r , who has achieved manly s t r e n g t h through r i t u a l s l a u g h t e r , of which the blood on h i s hands i s t a n g i b l e p r o o f . In c o n t r a s t to h i s , her own maturation process i s one i n which she grows g r a d u a l l y weaker i n response to the e x p e c t a t i o n s of her f a m i l y and her awakening s e x u a l i t y . As she l o s e s power and s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e , she a d j u s t s her f a n t a s i e s from h e r o i c adventures i n which she c a s t s h e r s e l f i n the c e n t r a l r o l e , to sexual f a n t a s i e s i n which her r o l e i s p a s s i v e . S i m i l a r l y , i n "Red D r e s s — 1 9 4 6 " , the teen-age g i r l p r o t a g o n i s t a c t s on a d v i c e i n a magazine a r t i c l e which suggests ways to a t t r a c t boys by adopting a s u i t a b l e manner: "Be gay1 L e t the boys  see your eyes s p a r k l e , l e t them hear laughter i n your  v o i c e ! " (p. 154). Although "Boys and G i r l s " may be read as an account of the f r u s t r a t i o n of growing up female, i t s f e m i n i s t i m p l i c a t i o n s are e x t r a p o l a t i o n s from i t s c e n t r a l concern t h a t r e s t r i c t i n g behaviour a c c o r d i n g to gender denies the f u l l range of human p o s s i b i l i t y . Whereas c h i l d h o o d i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by androgynous freedom, womanhood i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by the l i m i t a t i o n s of being female. As 32 Helen remarks i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " , c h i l d r e n l i v e "without time and i n p e r f e c t imaginary freedom" (p. 196); t h e r e f o r e , growing up i s always a f a l l from grace. I t i s n o t a b l e how i n "Boys and G i r l s " , as young c h i l d r e n , both the n a r r a t o r and her b r o t h e r can admit to f e a r . L a t e r , however, L a i r d w i l l be expected to overcome h i s f e a r , j u s t as the n a r r a t o r w i l l be expected to suppress her anger, which c o u l d be d i s p l a y e d as long as she was a c h i l d . In an i n t e r v i e w p u b l i s h e d i n CHATELAINE, A l i c e Munro comments on the l a s t paragraph of "Boys and G i r l s " : W e l l , i t was intended to convey the g i r l a c c e p t i n g her f e m i n i n i t y i n a l l i t s complexity; which i m p l i e s t h a t i f she's a g i r l , she's allowed to p r o t e s t , her mind i s f r e e r than i f she were a man. She doesn't have to undergo the b r u t a l c o n d i t i o n i n g t h a t her b r o t h e r does. So t h e r e ' s a s o r t of i r o n y t h e r e . "Oh, you're o n l y a g i r l , " but maybe i t ' s b e t t e r to be a g i r l i n these circumstances. But. . . her p r o t e s t doesn't count, because she has no power. And i t ' s the l a c k of power t h a t g i v e s her the freedom to speak. I r e a l l y f e e l t h a t , i n a l l c i v i l i z a t i o n s , probably the s l a v e s see t h i n g s most c l e a r l y . 1 ° In "Boys and G i r l s " , the p o i n t of view i s female, but the problem i s not r e s t r i c t e d to the female sex. Growing up f o r c e s both boys and g i r l s to conform to separate r o l e s imposed upon them by t h e i r c u l t u r e and encoded i n the language. The i n t e r r e l a t i o n of r e a l i t y and language i s f u r t h e r developed i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " . When Helen and Maddy t e l l Fred Powell s t o r i e s of t h e i r past, they use him as a 33 b u f f e r , and the s t o r i e s as a means of a v o i d i n g f a c i n g the t r u t h of t h e i r estrangement from each other: Maddy s u r p r i s e d me by b r i n g i n g him home to supper the f i r s t n i g h t I was here and then we spent the evening, as we have spent many s i n c e , making t h i s strange man a present of our c h i l d h o o d . . . (p. 193) T h e i r s t o r i e s are not designed to repossess the p a s t , but to make remembering bearable by c o n c e n t r a t i n g on p l e a s a n t or amusing r e c o l l e c t i o n s . I t i s the same impulse which prompts A l v a to w r i t e so r e s o l u t e l y c h e e r f u l a l e t t e r home i n "Sunday Afternoon": Don't worry about me being lonesome and downtrodden and a l l t h a t maid s o r t of t h i n g . I wouldn't l e t anybody get away with anything l i k e t h a t . Besides I'm not a maid r e a l l y , i t ' s j u s t f o r the summer. I don't f e e l lonesome, why should I? I j u s t observe and am i n t e r e s t e d . ( p . 167) The gap between Alva's l e t t e r and the n a r r a t i v e of her l i f e i n the Gannett household which frames i t i s not simply the i r o n y of the audience knowing more t h a t the c h a r a c t e r . A l v a h e r s e l f r e a l i z e s t h a t the Gannetts are e x p l o i t i n g her, but she e x p l o i t s them too i n order to l e a r n the manners of a c l a s s above her own, i n f o r m a t i o n which she may l a t e r put to her advantage. The purpose of Alva's l e t t e r , then, i s p a r t l y to prevent her mother from s p o i l i n g these p l a n s , and p a r t l y to convince h e r s e l f t h a t she has not demeaned h e r s e l f by a l l o w i n g the Gannetts to t r e a t her as a s e r v a n t . The s i m i l a r i t y between s t o r y t e l l i n g and l y i n g , 34 approached i n d i r e c t l y i n "Sunday Afternoon", i s d i s c u s s e d d i r e c t l y i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " , when Helen r e c a l l s Fred's a t t i t u d e to the s t o r i e s she and her s i s t e r t e l l him: "You g i r l s have got good memories," Fred Powell says, and s i t s watching us with an a i r of admiration and something e l s e — r e s e r v e , embarrassment,deprecation—which appears on the fa c e s of these m i l d d e l i b e r a t e people as they watch the keyed-up a n t i c s of t h e i r e n t e r t a i n e r s , (p. 193) Amused, but with r e s e r v a t i o n s , Fred t y p i f i e s the conservatism of t h e i r s o c i e t y , which suspects i n d i v i d u a l s who draw a t t e n t i o n to themselves, and v a l u e s r e t i c e n c e as an outward form of in n e r s t r e n g t h . The s t o r y t e l l e r s , Maddy and Helen, are o u t s i d e r s i n the town. Helen has t r a v e l l e d t w e n t y - f i v e hundred miles f o r t h i s v i s i t , and Maddy, d e s p i t e l i v i n g i n the small town where she grew up, d e c l a r e s t h a t Fred i s her o n l y r e a l f r i e n d . The s t r e n g t h of her r e l a t i o n s h i s h i p with him i s expressed by Maddy 1s saying t h a t he alone speaks the same language as she does. Language, the medium f o r t e l l i n g s t o r i e s , c a l l s a t t e n t i o n to i t s e l f i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " . The phrase, "your mother" reminds Helen of the shame and anger her Mother used to cause her. Years l a t e r , the mere mention of "your mother" re-awakens the resentment she used to f e e l at being l i n k e d through the p o s s e s s i v e pronoun to a mother whose i l l n e s s was so conspicuous t h a t i t made her daughters conspicuous too. S i m i l a r l y , i n "The Time of Death", the appearance of the o l d man who comes around to sharpen 35 s c i s s o r s r e l e a s e s P a t r i c i a ' s unexpressed g r i e f over her b r o t h e r Benny's death. The s c i s s o r s man and Benny were l i n k e d through language because "Bram", Benny's name f o r him, had been one of the few words Benny c o u l d speak. In "The Peace of U t r e c h t " too, the n a r r a t o r i s s e n s i t i v e to language. Hearing her s i s t e r speaking w i t h the l o c a l accent she f e e l s reproached f o r having escaped the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s Maddy assumed f o r t h e i r s i c k mother. Maddy's l o s t hopes f o r a l i f e beyond the c o n f i n e s of the small town where they grew up are suggested by the l o s s of the educated accent she once c u l t i v a t e d . When Maddy and the n a r r a t o r were young, they eased the p a i n of being m i s f i t s by mimicing the l o c a l accent, and the burden of w a i t i n g on t h e i r mother by t r a n s f o r m i n g her i n t o "Our G o t h i c Mother" (p. 195). In the same way, Ben, the f a t h e r i n "Walker Brothers Cowboy", turns the unhappy circumstances of h i s job as door-to-door salesman i n t o anecdotes and songs: "And have a l l linaments and o i l s , / F o r e v e r y t h i n g from corns to b o i l s " (p. 4). Transforming h u m i l i a t i o n i n t o v a u d e v i l l e comedy, he renews h i s own courage and r e a s s u r e s h i s f a m i l y . Since he r e f u s e s to a c t l i k e a f a i l u r e , he f o r e s t a l l s p i t y even from a sympathetic former g i r l f r i e n d . Not c o n t a i n e d by h i s r o l e s as fox farmer or salesman, he i s an a r t i s t manque who dramatizes h i s experience and presents i t to an audience composed of h i s f a m i l y and c l o s e f r i e n d s . Ben Jordan i s more than a salesman; he i s the hero of h i s own l i f e - s t o r y . 36 "Walker Brother's Cowboy" i s not the o n l y s t o r y i n Munro's f i r s t c o l l e c t i o n which suggests the resemblance between r e a l l i f e and t h e a t r e . In "Day of the B u t t e r f l y " , when the n a r r a t o r v i s i t s a dying schoolmate i n h o s p i t a l , she i s s t r u c k by the t h e a t r i c a l i t y of the o c c a s i o n . A well-meaning teacher has c o n t r i v e d a mock b i r t h d a y p a r t y f o r the dying c h i l d , and, although the g i r l s p l a y out t h e i r a ssigned p a r t s , the joy which i s u s u a l l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h a b i r t h d a y c e l e b r a t i o n i s m i s s i n g , and the r i t u a l of g i f t - g i v i n g i s hollow. Myra, the s i c k g i r l , succeeds i n making the o n l y spontaneous gesture when she s i n g l e s out the n a r r a t o r as her s p e c i a l f r i e n d and c a l l s her back to choose one of the presents f o r h e r s e l f ; however, even t h i s moment seems oddly a r t i f i c i a l to the n a r r a t o r , who senses t h a t the deathbed o c c a s i o n i n e v i t a b l y over-emphasizes the importance of Myra's a c t i o n . As Helen admits to h e r s e l f , she d i d not r e t u r n Myra's a f f e c t i o n . She acknowledges "the t r e a c h e r y of my own h e a r t " (p. 110); she p r e f e r r e d the popular g i r l s to Myra, who was always "set a p a r t f o r legendary uses" (p. 110), i n other words, s i g n i f i c a n t more as an unusual memory—the f o r e i g n e r , the g i r l who d i e d y o u n g — t h a n a f r i e n d . Moreover, the ending of the s t o r y , the nurse r e t u r n i n g and Helen's r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t she cannot enter i n t o Myra's "unknown, e x a l t e d , e t h e r - s m e l l i n g h o s p i t a l world" (p. 110), c a l l s a t t e n t i o n to the l i m i t a t i o n s of s u b j e c t i v i t y . Throughout "The Peace of U t r e c h t " too, a n a r r a t o r 37 c o n f r o n t s the l i m i t a t i o n s of her s u b j e c t i v e viewpoint. She and her s i s t e r are unable to overcome the falsehoods and evasions which they have i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o t h e i r s t o r i e s of the p a s t , " t h a t v e r s i o n of our ch i l d h o o d which i s s a f e l y p r e served i n anecdote, as i n a k i n d of mental c e l l o p h a n e " (p. 193). The p r o p e r t i e s of c e l l o p h a n e , transparency coupled with s t r e n g t h and im p e r m e a b i l i t y , make i t an apt image f o r the b a r r i e r between the s i s t e r s . The image i s extended by the c u t - g l a s s bowl which Maddy plans to use to serve r a s p b e r r i e s . By r e f u s i n g to acknowledge her g u i l t over her mother's death, Maddy h e r s e l f has become as b r i t t l e as g l a s s . F i n a l l y , the bowl s h a t t e r s on the k i t c h e n f l o o r a f t e r she admits t h a t she s a c r i f i c e d her mother's wish to remain a t home to her own overwhelming d e s i r e to break f r e e of her: "'I co u l d n ' t go on,' she s a i d . 'I wanted my l i f e ' " (p. 210). Having confessed her s e l f i s h n e s s , Maddy may succeed i n making a new l i f e , but her prospects are d o u b t f u l when, as she says, "I've got a whole s h e l f f u l l of g l a s s bowls. I've got enough g l a s s bowls to do me the r e s t of my l i f e " (p. 210) . One moment of s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n , so the s h e l f of g l a s s bowls seems to imply, i s not s u f f i c i e n t to overcome a burden of remorse accumulated over a l i f e t i m e . N e v e r t h e l e s s , the brea k i n g of the g l a s s bowl p r o v i d e s the o c c a s i o n f o r Helen to urge her s i s t e r to f o r g e t the p a s t . Fragmentation, then, perhaps i m p l i e s the p o s s i b i l i t y of wholeness. S i g n i f i c a n t l y enough, fragmentation i n the form of dismemberment i s the f a t e of Orpheus i n the myth which 38 l o o s e l y s t r u c t u r e s DANCE. Orpheus i s e v e n t u a l l y t o r n a p a r t by the Maenads, h i s head thrown i n t o the r i v e r Hebrus and the r e s t of h i s body b u r i e d a t the f o o t of Mt. Olympus by the Muses. Throughout DANCE, Munro c o n s i s t e n t l y embeds s t o r i e s w i t h i n the t e x t . From i n f a n c y to o l d age, these n a r r a t o r s l i s t e n to and t e l l s t o r i e s . T h i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s t o r y t e l l i n g counters the r e a l i s t i c s u r f a c e of drab and p r e d i c t a b l e small-town and r u r a l l i f e s i n c e the embedded s t o r i e s are more e x o t i c and s u r p r i s i n g than one would expect i n t h i s m i l i e u . F r e q u e n t l y too, t h e i r o r i g i n s are European r a t h e r than Canadian. Moreover, the f a i r y - s t o r y m o t i f s , as w e l l as elements of medieval romance and c l a s s i c a l myth, pro v i d e a l a r g e r frame f o r the everyday experience of c h i l d p r o t a g o n i s t s . "Images" i s t y p i c a l of Munro's technique of weaving f a n t a s y with pe r s o n a l experience u n t i l the atmosphere changes, becoming mysterious and menacing. Although the c h i l d ' s f e a r s are t e m p o r a r i l y i n c r e a s e d because her i m a g i n a t i o n has f e d on s t o r i e s , by p a s s i n g through imaginary o r d e a l s , she u l t i m a t e l y becomes st r o n g e r and more s e l f - a s s u r e d . As a d o l e s c e n t s , the female p r o t a g o n i s t s of DANCE use s t o r i e s as models: s t o r i e s i n f l u e n c e the way they see themselves, and a l s o determine the f u t u r e they imagine f o r themselves. U n f o r t u n a t e l y , s t o r i e s may t a n t a l i z e them by s u g g e s t i n g p o s s i b i l i t i e s which can o n l y be r e a l i z e d i n f a n t a s y , and lead to d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t and a r e t r e a t from 39 a c t i o n i n t o the p a s s i v i t y of daydreams. With the p a s s i n g of time, s t o r i e s become more f i x e d ; whatever l i e s they c o n t a i n a c q u i r e a spurious t r u t h . Older p r o t a g o n i s t s l i k e Helen i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " , are uncomfortably aware of the divergence between the s t o r i e s they t e l l of t h e i r past l i v e s and the t r u t h . These problems of s t o r y t e l l i n g which Munro r a i s e s i n DANCE are r e f l e c t e d i n problems of language. C e r t a i n phrases r e v e a l mysterious depths of ambiguity and paradox. In "The Peace of U t r e c h t " , f o r example, the phrase "a l i t t l e b l i n d window of c o l o u r e d g l a s s " ( p. 197), suggests the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s w i t h i n the s i s t e r s ' r e l a t i o n s h i p . The s t r a i n i n p a i r i n g the a d j e c t i v e , b l i n d , with the noun, window, r e f l e c t s the s t r a i n Helen f e e l s when she and her s i s t e r t r y to t a l k t o g e t h e r . Words may a l s o t u r n i n t o charms which evoke s t r o n g f e e l i n g , as i s the way with "your mother" i n the same s t o r y . Language's emotive as w e l l as d e s c r i p t i v e p r o p e r t i e s make i t sometimes the c o n t r o l l e r r a t h e r than the v e h i c l e of thought. Munro's n a r r a t o r s manipulate words as they must, but they are a l s o manipulated by w o r d s — a s Helen i s i n "The Peace of U t r e c h t " , when Maddy holds her a t a d i s t a n c e by c o n f i n i n g c o n v e r s a t i o n to anecdotes about the past which are s u i t a b l e to share with an o u t s i d e r . S t o r y t e l l e r s are noteworthy i n DANCE, where they form a s u b - c l a s s of o u t s i d e r s who r e j e c t , or are r e j e c t e d by, t h e i r s o c i e t y . G e n e r a l l y they are female, although Ben Jordan i n "Walker Brothers Cowboy" i s a s i g n i f i c a n t e x c e p t i o n . 40 F r e q u e n t l y , they express ambivalent f e e l i n g s about t h e i r s t o r y t e l l i n g , and admit to uneasiness over t r a n s f o r m i n g experience i n t o s t o r i e s . They b e l i e v e a l i n e should e x i s t between s t o r y t e l l i n g and l y i n g , but they are not sure where to draw i t . A H Notes 1 A l i c e Munro, DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968) . Subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 2 A l i c e Munro, "The C o l o n e l ' s Hash R e s e t t l e d , " i n THE NARRATIVE VOICE, ed. John M e t c a l f e (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1972), p. 182. 3 Annie D i l l a r d , LIVING BY FICTION (New York: Harper Colophon, 1983), p. 29. 4 : Munro, "The C o l o n e l ' s Hash R e s e t t l e d , " p. 182. 5 D.H. Lawrence, "The S p i r i t of P l a c e , " i n STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE 1924; r p t . i n D.H. LAWRENCE: SELECTED LITERARY CRITICISM, ed. Anthony Beal ( London: Heinemann, 1964), p. 297. 6 A l i c e Munro, "What Is Real?" i n MAKING IT NEW, ed. John M e t c a l f e (Toronto: Methuen, 1982), p. 226. 7 Al a n Twigg, CONVERSATIONS WITH 24 CANADIAN WRITERS (Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour, 1981), p. 15. 8 Bruno B e t t e l h e i m , THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT (New York: Knopf, 1976),p. 8. 9 Robert Kroetsch, "Contemporary Standards i n the Canadian Novel," ESSAYS ON CANADIAN WRITING, No. 20 (1980), p. 17. 10 Northrop Frye, FABLES OF IDENTITY (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963), p. 36. 11 Hugh Garner, P r e f . , DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES by A l i c e Munro (Toronto: Ryerson, 1968) n. pag. 12 Helen Hoy, " D u l l , Simple, Amazing and Unfathonable: Paradox and Double V i s i o n i n A l i c e Munro's F i c t i o n , " STUDIES IN CANADIAN LITERATURE, No. 5 (1980), pp. 100-15. 13 B e t t e l h e i m , p. 61. 14 Paul England, FIFTY FAVOURITE OPERAS, 5th. ed. (New York: Harper, n.d.), p. 23. >2 15 E r i c Auerbach, MIMESIS ( P r i n c e t o n : P r i n c e t o n Univ. Press, 1971), p. 136. 16 John M e t c a l f e , "A Conversation with A l i c e Munro," JOURNAL OF CANADIAN FICTION, 1, No. 4 (1972), 54. 17 W.L. Morton, "Seeing an U n l i t e r a r y Landscape," MOSAIC, 3, No. 3 (1970), r p t . i n CONTEXTS OF CANADA'S PAST, ed. A.B. M c K i l l o p (Toronto: Macmillan, 1980), p. 19. 18 A l i c e Munro, as quoted i n Kern Murch, "Name: A l i c e Munro, Occupation: W r i t e r , " i n CHATELAINE, Aug. 1975, p. 71. 43 Chapter Two Turning L i f e Into F i c t i o n The opening paragraph of "The F l a t s Road", the f i r s t s t o r y i n LIVES, i n t r o d u c e s a c h a r a c t e r c a l l e d Uncle Benny, o n l y to add i n the second paragraph the f o l l o w i n g d i s c l a i m e r : "He was not our uncl e or anybody's". 1 While the sentence r e f e r s to the custom of a l l o w i n g c h i l d r e n to address f a m i l y f r i e n d s as "uncle", i t a l s o i m p l i e s t h a t language i s not trustworthy, and t h a t i l l u s i o n i s e a s i l y confused with r e a l i t y . Since these themes have a l r e a d y emerged i n DANCE, i t i s not s u r p r i s i n g to d i s c o v e r them again i n LIVES, which i s p r i m a r i l y concerned with the feminine experience of c h i l d h o o d and youth. The two s t o r y c y c l e s d i f f e r , however, i n the way i n which Munro u n i f i e s the i n d i v i d u a l s t o r i e s w i t h i n them. The s t o r i e s i n DANCE are o f t e n l i n k e d t h e m a t i c a l l y and o c c a s i o n a l l y g e o g r a p h i c a l l y , but they do not cohere as t i g h t l y as do the s t o r i e s i n LIVES. In LIVES,, through the i n n o v a t i o n of a n a r r a t o r who i s an a p p r e n t i c e w r i t e r , Munro u n i f i e s the s t o r i e s w i t h i n a s i n g l e u n f o l d i n g consciousness. Since Del Jordan i s always the n a r r a t o r , the segments are bound together by common themes, and her experiences as she grows up all o w thematic development and pro v i d e the r a t i o n a l e f o r the country and town s e t t i n g s . 44 Since LIVES i s a n a r r a t i v e of s u b s t a n t i a l l e n g t h , has a roughly c h r o n o l o g i c a l development, and observes u n i t i e s of g e o g r a p h i c a l s e t t i n g and n a r r a t i v e v o i c e , i t was i n i t i a l l y mistaken f o r a n o v e l . The term, n o v e l , i s , however, a misnomer t h a t made e a r l y reviewers uneasy and d i s t o r t e d t h e i r c r i t i c a l response. James Polk, f o r example, i d e n t i f i e d A l i c e Munro 1s theme i n the resonant sentence, "People's l i v e s , i n J u b i l e e as everywhere, were d u l l , simple, amazing, and u n f a t h o n a b l e — d e e p caves paved w i t h k i t c h e n l i n o l e u m " (p. 249). Reviewing LIVES as a n o v e l , Polk found the e p i l o g u e top-heavy" and deplored the tendency of minor c h a r a c t e r s to draw a t t e n t i o n away from the p r o t a g o n i s t . 2 Both would be weaknesses i f LIVES were, i n f a c t , a n o v e l , but i n s t e a d , they are s t r e n g t h s of the genre to which the work p r o p e r l y belongs, the s t o r y c y c l e i n F o r r e s t L. Ingram's term, or "open form", as J.R. S t r u t h e r s 3 c a l l s i t . The c h a r a c t e r i s t i c which marks LIVES as a s t o r y c y c l e i s the balanced t e n s i o n between the i n d i v i d u a l i t y of each s t o r y and the general p a t t e r n of the whole Since the c o n c l u s i o n i s the i n t e r p r e t i v e key to a s t o r y c y c l e , the e p i l o g u e i s a p p r o p r i a t e , j u s t as Del Jordan's o b s e r v a t i o n s of the other people i n the town of J u b i l e e p r o p e r l y belong i n a work which c h r o n i c l e s the a p p r e n t i c e s h i p of a young w r i t e r . A n a l y s i n g the s t r u c t u r e of LIVES, L.M. L e i t c h observes: As with the d e l i n e a t i o n of a community, the e p i s o d i c s t r u c t u r e a l s o lends i t s e l f to 45 a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l m a t e r i a l s organized to i n d i c a t e the s e l e c t i v e workings of memory, a pr e o c c u p a t i o n found throughout Munro's work.^ Loose o r g a n i z a t i o n a c c o r d i n g to memory g i v e s the work i t s d i s t i n c t i v e f l a v o u r . U n l i k e novels which move forward i n a s t r a i g h t l i n e a c c o r d i n g to laws of cause and e f f e c t , these s t o r i e s move i n c o n c e n t r i c c i r c l e s a c c o r d i n g to laws of r e c o l l e c t i o n . Episodes are grouped together by a s s o c i a t i o n , and a c q u i r e meaning through arrangement. Margaret Laurence's A BIRD IN THE HOUSE f o l l o w s the same s t r u c t u r a l p r i n c i p l e , and Laurence has expressed the d i f f e r e n c e between t h a t work and her novels as a d i f f e r e n c e i n t h e i r d i r e c t i o n s of l i n e s of f o r c e : v e r t i c a l i n the s h o r t 5 s t o r y c y c l e , and h o r i z o n t a l i n the n o v e l . As an embryonic w r i t e r , the p r o t a g o n i s t , Del Jordon, i s both l i k e other young g i r l s and u n l i k e them. Her pronounced i n t e r e s t i n words, the t o o l s of her t r a d e , appears when she i s v ery young as a heightened response to language. L i k e Stephen Dedalus i n James Joyce's A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS a YOUNG MAN, Del i s s e n s i t i v e to the sound of words as w e l l as t h e i r sense. When Del and her c o u s i n , Mary Agnes, come upon a dead cow, Del f i r s t t r a c e s the cow's eye socket with the end of a s t i c k as she imagines p i e r c i n g the eye i t s e l f . Unable to b r i n g h e r s e l f to do so, she s e t t l e s f o r probing words i n s t e a d : "'Day-ud cow,' I s a i d , expanding the word l u s c i o u s l y . 'DAy-ud cow, day-ud cow'" (p. 4 4 ) . R e t r e a t i n g from a c t i o n i n t o words i s not t y p i c a l of D e l , however; she 46 i s an e n t h u s i a s t i c p a r t i c i p a n t i n l i f e as w e l l as i t s c h r o n i c l e r . A d i s t i n c t i v e f e a t u r e of her c h i l d h o o d i s t h a t she i s surrounded by s t o r y t e l l e r s . Among them, two out s t a n d i n g models of opposing n a r r a t i v e stances emerge: Uncle Benny and Uncle C r a i g . Uncle Benny i s so immersed i n the chaos of l i f e t h a t h i s t a l e s r i s e up l i k e bubbles of gas from the Grenoch Swamp which i s h i s n a t u r a l home; Uncle C r a i g has withdrawn from l i f e so s u c c e s s f u l l y by " p r e f e r r i n g not", as h i s s i s t e r s p roudly d e s c r i b e h i s s e l f - e f f a c i n g manner, t h a t h i s book on the h i s t o r y of Wawanash County i s a l i f e l e s s r e c o r d of f a c t s and f i g u r e s . N e i t h e r approach i s broad enough f o r the kind of w r i t e r Del a s p i r e s to be: she must i n c o r p o r a t e elements of both u n c l e s . Despite her y o u t h f u l p r e f e r e n c e f o r the pungent v a r i e t y of Uncle Benny's junkyard-swampworld, she u l t i m a t e l y l e a r n s to va l u e Uncle C r a i g ' s p a s s i o n f o r d e t a i l too, seeing i t r e i n c a r n a t e d i n her own d e s i r e to document her p a s t . The p r o l i f e r a t i o n of s t o r i e s and s t o r y t e l l e r s i n LIVES suggests t h a t the d e s i r e to remember one's past and f i n d meaning i n i t i s not e x c l u s i v e to f i c t i o n w r i t e r s . The id e a t h a t each i n d i v i d u a l c r e a t e s h i s own f i c t i o n s and i s the a r t i s t of h i s own i d e n t i t y permeates the work. The c h a r a c t e r s i n LIVES d e f i n e themselves not onl y through t h e i r a c t i o n s but a l s o through t h e i r s t o r i e s about t h e i r p a s t . One of the n a r r a t i v e ' s s u b t l e i r o n i e s i s t h a t Del's aunts, who are i d e o l o g i c a l l y opposed to the a t t e n t i o n - s e e k i n g 47 i n h e r e n t i n being a w r i t e r l i k e D e l , are tempermentally a l l i e d with her through t h e i r i m a g i n a t i o n , p l a y f u l n e s s and love of the r i d i c u l o u s . Although the aunts obey the s t r i c t u r e s of t h e i r s o c i e t y , which emphasizes hard work, good housekeeping, and, above a l l , c o n f o r m i t y , they have shaped t h e i r l i v e s a r t i s t i c a l l y through t h e i r s t o r i e s u n t i l they resemble a comic duet. D e l , as a r t i s t , r e c o g n i s e s the p r o c e s s : "each of t h e i r two s e l v e s was seen to be something c o n s t r u c t e d with t e r r i b l e c a r e " (p. 59). L i k e the f i c t i o n w r i t e r Del w i l l become, the aunts i n v e n t and t e l l s t o r i e s f o r themselves as w e l l as t h e i r audience: Aunt E l s p e t h and Auntie Grace t o l d s t o r i e s . I t d i d not seem as i f they were t e l l i n g them to me, to e n t e r t a i n me, but as i f they would have t o l d them anyway, f o r t h e i r own p l e a s u r e , even i f they had been alone, (p. 33) The aunts detach themselves from experience i n order to r e f l e c t upon i t as w r i t e r s do; moreover, they share the a r t i s t ' s urge to push events to imaginary c o n c l u s i o n s , to ask, what i f ? They r e v e a l these c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i n t h e i r p r a c t i c a l j o k i n g and r e a d i n e s s to j o i n Del i n a game of jumping i n the p i l e s of hay. A f t e r t h i s episode, Aunt E l s p e t h shakes the b i t s of hay from her h a i r , "with l i t t l e s n o r t i n g sounds of p l e a s u r e " (p. 50), showing a s i d e of h e r s e l f a t v a r i a n c e with her p u b l i c persona of d i g n i f i e d r e c t i t u d e . Auntie Grace's comment draws f u r t h e r a t t e n t i o n to t h i s d i f f e r e n c e , " ' I f a car had come by, wouldn't you j u s t have wanted to d i e ? ' " (p. 50). While paying 48 l i p - s e r v i c e to the p r o p r i e t i e s , Auntie Grace i m p l i e s , n e v e r t h e l e s s , t h a t the danger of being observed c o n t r i b u t e s to her p l e a s u r e . As more d e t a i l s accumulate, the i n c i d e n t r e v e a l s i t s complexity. Although the aunts j o i n Del i n her romp, t h e i r p l e a s u r e i s not the same as h e r s : Aunt E l s p e t h and Auntie Grace had come and jumped i n the hay too, w i t h t h e i r aprons f l y i n g , laughing a t themselves. When the moment came they would h e s i t a t e , and jump with not q u i t e s u f f i c i e n t abandon, l a n d i n g i n a decorous s i t t i n g p o s i t i o n , hands spread as bouncing on a cushion, or h o l d i n g t h e i r h a i r . (p. 50) U n l i k e Del's spontaneous and wholehearted p l a y , t h e i r s i s s e l f - c o n s c i o u s . I t i s not the leap i n t o the c e n t r e of the hay c o i l which they enjoy, but the i d e a of themselves l e a p i n g . T h e i r a c t i o n i s more p l e a s i n g i n r e t r o s p e c t than i n a c t u a l experience; i t becomes the o c c a s i o n f o r r e c o l l e c t i n g themselves as spunky and g i r l i s h , d a r i n g to f l o u t c onvention. L a t e r , when Del reads WAR AND PEACE, she sees a resemblance between her aunts and T o l s t o y ' s Natasha, i n the way t h a t a l l three see t h e i r b r o t h e r ' s work as i n h e r e n t l y more important than t h e i r s . Although the aunts seem content i n t h e i r mastery of housekeeping, the c r i t i c a l edge to t h e i r mimicry and j o k i n g suggests a degree of resentment, d i r e c t e d p a r t i c u l a r l y a g a i n s t Del's mother: "Is t h a t the h a i r b r u s h you use on your h a i r ? Oh, we thought i t was f o r the dog!" (p. 36). T h i s k i n d of s n i p i n g i s t r a d i t i o n a l l y the r e s o r t of the powerless, suggesting t h a t the aunts' apparent s e c u r i t y i s threatened by Del's mother's 4 9 d i f f e r i n g view of the r o l e of women. The aunts' c o n v i c t i o n s about t h e i r proper p l a c e i n l i f e c o s t them the a t t e n t i o n they c r a v e . Unconscious a r t i s t s , they f i n d t h e i r audience i n D e l , and u l t i m a t e l y she becomes t h e i r v o i c e , r e l a y i n g t h e i r s t o r i e s to the wider audience they deserve. As a c h i l d o b s e r v i n g the women of her f a m i l y , Del compares Aunt E l s p e t h and Auntie Grace with her mother, who "went along s t r a i g h t l i n e s " , whereas they "wove i n and out around her, r e t r e a t i n g and d i s a p p e a r i n g and coming back" (p. 36). Ada Jordan i s d i r e c t and s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d i n e x p r e s s i n g her d i s a p p r o v a l of t h e i r way of l i f e ; E l s p e t h and Grace are no l e s s d i s a p p r o v i n g of her, but show t h e i r f e e l i n g s i n s u b t l e and devious ways, c h i e f l y by undermining Ada when t a l k i n g about her to D e l . Since the aunts and Del's mother are d i a m e t r i c a l l y opposed, they o f f e r Del a c h o i c e of female models. The aunts t r y to make her p r a c t i c a l , w h i le her mother t r i e s to make her i n t e l l e c t u a l . Although the order and comfort of the aunts' world i s s e d u c t i v e , Del r e a l i z e s t h a t i t i s achieved through the s a c r i f i c e of pers o n a l ambition. She i s her mother's daughter too, n o t i c i n g the i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s i n t h e i r t h i n k i n g . In her w r i t i n g , Del can s y n t h e s i z e the opposing viewpoints of Uncle Benny and Uncle C r a i g ; as a woman, however, she must choose between the opt i o n s r e p r e s e n t e d by her mother and the aunts. The only c h a r a c t e r who sympathizes with both viewpoints and mediates between them i s Del's f a t h e r . He can remain detached, but h i s detachment i s not dynamic but p a s s i v e : "The F l a t s Road 50 would do f o r him; Uncle Benny would do f o r h i s f r i e n d " (p. 8). In h i s proud r e f u s a l to seek a f r i e n d who would be h i s e q u a l , he i s c l o s e l y a l l i e d w ith the aunts. U n l i k e h i s w i f e , who c o l l i d e s with d i f f i c u l t i e s head-on, Ben Jordan ignores or minimizes them: My f a t h e r s t a r t e d t r y i n g to persuade Uncle Benny t h a t i t was not such a bad t h i n g to be r i d of Madeleine, a f t e r a l l . He p o i n t e d out t h a t she had not been a p a r t i c u l a r l y good housekeeper and t h a t she had not made Uncle Benny's l i f e e x a c t l y comfortable and serene. He d i d t h i s i n a d i p l o m a t i c way, not f o r g e t t i n g he was t a l k i n g about a man's w i f e . (p. 20) His weary t a c t has a moderating i n f l u e n c e , but i t p l a c e s him a t a d i s t a n c e . L i k e h i s humour, i t i s a way of a v o i d i n g r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and a c t i o n . I f Del's mother's b e s e t t i n g s i n i s her l a c k of r e s t r a i n t , her f a t h e r ' s i s excess of i t . F o l l o w i n g Ada's impassioned speech concerning the f u t u r e p o s s i b i l i t i e s of r e c y c l i n g p a r t s of the body a f t e r death, he asks, "Were you p l a n n i n g to d i s c u s s these ideas with the f o l k s a t the f u n e r a l ? " (p. 48). Although Ada needs to be brought down to e a r t h , the gap between her viewpoint and her husband's i s so g r e a t t h a t i t r a i s e s q u e s t i o n s about t h e i r marriage, the s t r a i n s of which Del senses but attempts to o v e r l o o k : But a t t h i s moment, seein g my mother go meek and bewildered . . . and my f a t h e r t ouching her i n such a g e n t l e , compassionate, g r i e v i n g way . . . I was alarmed . . . I was a f r a i d t h a t they would go on and show me something I no more wanted to see than I wanted to see Uncle C r a i g dead. (p. 49) 51 Even so c u r i o u s an observer of other people's l i v e s as Del draws back from a n a l y s i s of t h e i r complex mutual dependence. Ignoring her mother's move to the house i n town while her f a t h e r remains most of the time on the farm, Del wants to b e l i e v e t h a t her parents are happy t o g e t h e r . Her mother encourages her to b e l i e v e i n the myth of marriage as a happy ending by never d i s c u s s i n g her present f e e l i n g s towards Del's f a t h e r , but t e l l i n g Del s t o r i e s of the p a s t i n s t e a d : In the beginning of her s t o r y was dark c a p t i v i t y , s u f f e r i n g , then d a r i n g and d e f i a n c e and escape. S t r u g g l e disappointment, more s t r u g g l e , godmothers and v i l l a i n s . Now I expected as i n a l l momentous s a t i s f y i n g s t o r i e s — t h e b u r s t of G l o r y , the Reward. Marriage to my f a t h e r ? I hoped t h i s was i t . I wished she would leave me i n no doubt about i t . (p. 78) At t h i s stage of Del's l i f e , she has d i f f i c u l t y understanding the d i f f e r e n c e between l i f e and s t o r i e s about l i f e . U n consciously, she a p p l i e s the shape of f i c t i o n to her mother's l i f e . As her mother t e l l s i t , her l i f e as a young g i r l i s a f a i r y t a l e ; t h e r e f o r e Del a n t i c i p a t e s the a p p r o p r i a t e f a i r y t a l e c o n c l u s i o n , marriage to her p r i n c e . L a t e r , i n Del's r e l a t i o n s h i p with Garnet French, she again r e t r e a t s i n t o a f i c t i o n of her own, heedless of her mother's warnings: "You've gone addled over a boy. You with your i n t e l l i g e n c e . Do you i n t e n d to l i v e i n J u b i l e e a l l your l i f e ? Do you want to be the w i f e of a lumberyard worker? Do you want to j o i n the B a p t i s t Ladies A i d ? " (p. 217) 52 Del r e f u s e s to c o n s i d e r her probable f u t u r e with Garnet, and l i v e s e n t i r e l y i n the p r e s e n t . Not u n t i l Garnet i n s i s t s t h a t she acknowledge h i s mastery of her i n the s t r u g g l e i n the water does she admit to h e r s e l f t h a t the boy she loves i s not Garnet as he i s , but as she has c r e a t e d him i n her own f i c t i o n . Once she understands t h a t she had "meant to keep him sewed up i n h i s golden l o v e r ' s s k i n f o r e v e r " (p. 234), she i s r e l e a s e d from the enchantment of being i n l o v e . With understanding comes shame a t having "somehow met h i s good o f f e r i n g s with my d e c e i t f u l o f f e r i n g s . . . matching my complexity and p l a y - a c t i n g with h i s t r u e i n t e n t " (p. 235). While Del has been e x p e r i e n c i n g love as f a n t a s y , Garnet has been e x p e r i e n c i n g i t as everyday r e a l i t y , and has committed h i m s e l f to Del not o n l y f o r the present but f o r the f u t u r e too. Del's a t t i t u d e t o Garnet i s t h a t of an a r t i s t s u p e r i o r to her c r e a t i o n ; t h e r e f o r e , she i s shocked when he makes demands of her. She f i n a l l y r e a l i z e s t h a t through him she has been attempting to r e j e c t her a r t i s t i c d e s t i n y s i n c e he a t t r a c t s her on an e n t i r e l y non-verbal l e v e l : I c o u l d not have made sense of any book, put one word a f t e r another, with Garnet i n the room. I t was a l l I c o u l d do to read the words on a b i l l b o a r d when we were d r i v i n g . I t was the very o p p o s i t e of going out with J e r r y , and seeing the world dense and complicated but a p p a l l i n g l y u n s e c r e t i v e ; the world I saw w i t h Garnet was something not f a r from what I thought animals must see, the world without names, (p. 218) Garnet then, has appealed to her as an a l t e r n a t i v e to books 53 or even speech. In the joy of her f i r s t sexual f u l f i l l m e n t , Del i s speechless f o r once: "Nothing t h a t c o u l d be s a i d by us would b r i n g us together; words were our enemies" (p. 217). For a time, Del's sexual connection with Garnet r e p l a c e s words and l i t e r a t u r e , but, when the r e l a t i o n s h i p ends and she mourns i t s ending, she r e t u r n s to l i t e r a t u r e when she quotes Tennyson's "Mariana", even though she c a l l s i t "one of the s i l l i e s t poems I had ever read" (p. 238) . In the same way, she si m u l t a n e o u s l y claims and d i s c l a i m s the sentiment i n Tennyson's l i n e , "He cometh not, she s a i d " . Even as she g r i e v e s over l o s i n g Garnet, Del f e e l s r e l i e f a t having r e t u r n e d to the world i n which words make sense: "I made myself understand t h a t I was r e a d i n g , and a f t e r some time I f e l t a mi l d s e n s i b l e g r a t i t u d e f o r these p r i n t e d words, these strange p o s s i b i l i t i e s (p. 238). L i k e the words i n the want ads, the l i n e from Tennyson's poem r e s t o r e s Del to the o l d way of l i f e , as she l i v e d i t bef o r e she met Garnet. Quoting Tennyson, she a l s o l i n k s h e r s e l f with her mother, who adopts the pen name, P r i n c e s s Ida, when w r i t i n g l e t t e r s to the e d i t o r i n which she i m i t a t e s the V i c t o r i a n poet's i d y l l i c d e s c r i p t i o n of nature. Munro's r e f e r e n c e s to Tennyson are c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of her a r t i s t i c method i n LIVES. The a l l u s i o n s are apt: Mariana f o r the daughter who waits i n v a i n f o r the absent l o v e r , P r i n c e s s Ida f o r the mother who b e l i e v e s i n educ a t i o n as the means of improving womens' l i v e s . P r i n c e s s Ida i s a p a r t i c u l a r l y a p p r o p r i a t e heroine f o r Del's mother to invoke. 54 In Tennyson's poem, "The P r i n c e s s " , she i s the founder of a women's c o l l e g e based on f e m i n i s t p r i n c i p l e s s u c c i n c t l y d e s c r i b e d by the k i n g , her f a t h e r : " . . . knowledge so my daughter held,/Was a l l i n a l l . " 0 " Ada Jordan—whose f i r s t name i s so c o n v e n i e n t l y c l o s e to I d a — g i v e s Del advice t h a t the p r i n c e s s h e r s e l f would have endorsed: "Use your b r a i n s . Don't be d i s t r a c t e d " (p. 173). Garnet French, of course, i s a major d i s t r a c t i o n . By f a l l i n g i n love with him a t a c r u c i a l p o i n t i n her c a r e e r , j u s t before her f i n a l examinations a t the end of h i g h s c h o o l , Del Jordan l o s e s the s c h o l a r s h i p she had hoped to win. Having a l l u d e d b r i e f l y and o b l i q u e l y to a poet and two s p e c i f i c poems t h a t stand i n i r o n i c r e l a t i o n to her theme and c h a r a c t e r s , Munro does not have the n a r r a t o r r e f l e c t upon the p a r a l l e l s between them. I t i s t r u e t h a t P r i n c e s s Ida, l i k e Del's mother, i s v u l n e r a b l e through her maternal i n s t i n c t , but the reader w i l l not l e a r n t h i s i n LIVES. Since both women all o w themselves to be swayed from t h e i r goals as s c h o l a r s and teachers by marrying, P r i n c e s s Ida r i g h t l y belongs i n the s t r u c t u r e of Munro's s t o r y . Having p l a c e d her t h e r e , Munro stops s h o r t of d i d a c t i c e x p l a n a t i o n s on a l l but one o c c a s i o n when Ada, who i s i n c l i n e d to l e c t u r e Del anyway, makes a speech which i s memorable because i t c o n t a i n s the phrase, " l i v e s of g i r l s and women" t h a t becomes the t i t l e of the work. I t i s Ada's quoting from "Locksley H a l l " i n t h i s speech which completes the c h a i n of r e f e r e n c e s to Tennyson's treatment of the theme of women's a s p i r a t i o n s . Here too, 55 Munro uses Tennyson i n d i r e c t l y as a r e f l e c t i v e s u r f a c e : There i s a change coming I t h i n k i n the l i v e s of g i r l s and women. . . . A l l women have had up t i l l now has been t h e i r connection with men. . . . He s h a l l h o l d thee, when h i s pa s s i o n s h a l l have spent i t s novel f o r c e , a l i t t l e c l o s e r than h i s dog, a l i t t l e dearer than  h i s horse. Tennyson wrote t h a t . I t ' s t r u e . Was t r u e . You w i l l want to have c h i l d r e n though, (p. 173) Despite the hope expressed a t the beginning of the passage, Del's mother reminds her daughter t h a t the p o s i t i o n of women i n r e l a t i o n to men has changed l i t t l e s i n c e Tennyson's day. Munro makes Ada's statement the thematic c e n t r e of the work, u s i n g i t as both s t o r y t i t l e and t i t l e of the e n t i r e c y c l e . Since Ada r e f e r s to "Locksley H a l l " i n the passage, Munro p l a c e s the e n t i r e work w i t h i n a Tennysonian frame, j u s t as she pl a c e s DANCE w i t h i n a c l a s s i c a l frame by r e f e r r i n g to the myth of Orpheus. The word, "women" of the t i t l e u n d e r l i n e s the importance of Ada Jordan as w e l l as her daughter, D e l . Because Ada i s presented through the eyes of a n a r r a t o r who has ambivalent f e e l i n g s about her, her c h a r a c t e r i s always p r o b l e m a t i c . Her h a b i t of d r a m a t i z i n g h e r s e l f embarrasses the teen-age D e l , who would p r e f e r a l e s s conspicuous s o r t of mother. But LIVES goes f u r t h e r than DANCE, examining the e f f e c t of t h i s mother not only on a daughter, but a l s o on a daughter who wants to be a w r i t e r . Del has been brought up on her mother's s t o r i e s of her miserable c h i l d h o o d when she s u f f e r e d from the b u l l y i n g of a f i e n d i s h b r o t h e r . Years 56 l a t e r , t h i s b r o t h e r v i s i t s them i n J u b i l e e and p r o v i d e s Del w i t h another o p p o r t u n i t y to compare s t o r y with r e a l i t y . A f t e r f i g u r i n g as the t o r t u r e r i n Ada's s t o r i e s , Uncle B i l l s u r p r i s e s Del by h i s f a i l u r e to behave i n c h a r a c t e r . She f i n d s i t d i f f i c u l t to r e c o n c i l e the middle-aged man who takes her on a grocery-shopping spree with the wicked f i g u r e of her mother's s t o r i e s . He compounds her problem by t e l l i n g h i s v e r s i o n of h i s c h i l d h o o d , i n which he remembers h i s mother not as a r e l i g i o u s f a n a t i c , as Ada does, but as a k i n d h e a r t e d person who b r i n g s a cocoon i n t o the house and shows the c h i l d r e n the wonder of a b u t t e r f l y emerging from i t . Del i s g i v e n a l e s s o n here on the d i f f e r e n c e p o i n t of view makes i n a s t o r y : That was i n the same house. The same house where my mother used to f i n d the f i r e out and her mother a t prayer and where she took milk and cucumbers i n the hope of g e t t i n g to heaven, (p . 8 8 . ) Although a t t h i s p o i n t Del i s i n c l i n e d to suspect her mother and b e l i e v e Uncle B i l l , g r a d u a l l y he f a l l s under s u s p i c i o n too. O s t e n s i b l y the v i s i t i s intended to heal the breach between him and Ada b e f o r e he d i e s of cancer, but a more s i n i s t e r i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of h i s motives i s g r a d u a l l y emerging. By f l a u n t i n g h i s young wife i n her f o x - f u r coat, he demonstrates t h a t he has not g i v e n up t o r t u r i n g h i s s i s t e r , but has merely r e f i n e d h i s methods. The episode i s prolonged and the c h a r a c t e r of Uncle B i l l developed i n a way t h a t suggests the resemblance between A l i c e Munro's 57 n a r r a t i v e technique and t h a t of magic r e a l i s t p a i n t i n g : In much the same way c e r t a i n Canadian magic r e a l i s t p a i n t e r s f l o o d an o b j e c t i n a c l e a r l i g h t u n t i l i t seems to take on a new and strange l i f e , f i c t i o n w r i t e r s look a t t h e i r s u b j e c t u n t i l i t s t a r t s to look strange, mysterious, f a s c i n a t i n g . 7 The longer the a c t i o n pauses and the eye of memory gazes s t e a d i l y a t Uncle B i l l , the more s i n i s t e r h i s behaviour seems. Nothing s h o r t of a b s o l u t e triumph w i l l s a t i s f y him; he wants to h u m i l i a t e h i s s i s t e r and b r o t h e r - i n - l a w and d e n i g r a t e fox-farming, t h e i r way of l i f e i n order to i n c r e a s e h i s s a t i s f a c t i o n i n h i s own m a t e r i a l success. L i k e the cancer which i s k i l l i n g him, h i s resentment of Ada i s a hidden malignancy. Outwardly b e n e f i c e n t , he f o o l s even Ada, who b e l i e v e s h i s promise of a legacy f o r her i n h i s w i l l . The sum mentioned, three hundred d o l l a r s , r e c a l l s the small legacy t h e i r mother r e c e i v e d and i n s i s t e d on spending on B i b l e s . Ada f i n a l l y overcomes her h a t r e d f o r her b r o t h e r , and p i t i e s him because "he i s a dying man" (p. 89). Her i m p l i e d f o r g i v e n e s s i s i n keeping with her c h a r a c t e r . In a n a l y s i n g other people, she h a b i t u a l l y g i v e s them the b e n e f i t of the doubt. A c c o r d i n g l y , she r e j e c t s the darker e x p l a n a t i o n of her b r o t h e r ' s motives i n f a v o r of the more hopeful one. By a c c e p t i n g h i s v i s i t as a genuine attempt at r e c o n c i l i a t i o n , she r e v e a l s her c h a r a c t e r i s t i c optimism about human nature and the c a p a c i t y of an i n d i v i d u a l to change. As her account 58 of her l i f e r e v e a l s , she sees h e r s e l f as a s e l f - w i l l e d i n d i v i d u a l who chose the s e l f she would become by r e j e c t i n g the v a l u e s of her f a m i l y and s u b s t i t u t i n g new value s based on reason. Her f a i t h i n educa t i o n as s a l v a t i o n r e p l a c e s her mother's r e l i g i o u s f a i t h . To Ada, reason i s supreme and pa s s i o n i t s s u b o r d i n a t e . The s t r e n g t h s and weaknesses of her p o s i t i o n are important to Del the young woman, as w e l l as Del the w r i t e r . The t i t l e , LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN, r e f e r s beyond l i t e r a t u r e to centre the work i n the l i v e s of i t s female c h a r a c t e r s . Del's mother, Fern Dogherty, Naomi, Miss F a r r i s , Aunt E l s p e t h and Auntie Grace are a l l important to Del not o n l y as m a t e r i a l f o r f i c t i o n but a l s o as examples of d i f f e r i n g approaches to l i f e . Each woman has accomodated h e r s e l f to l i f e by suppressing some aspects of her p e r s o n a l i t y and emphasizing o t h e r s . U n l i k e them, Del hopes to a v o i d denying any p a r t of h e r s e l f to conform to her s o c i e t y . But, the s t o r i e s t h a t o l d e r women t e l l about t h e i r youth show Del t h a t they used to be l i k e her. The qu e s t i o n t h e i r s t o r i e s r a i s e i s , why do women g i v e up t h e i r dreams? Del becomes obsessed with the gap between the Fern Dogherty who s t u d i e d v o i c e and the Fern Dogherty who i s t h e i r boarder now: "Did you pla n to be an opera s i n g e r ? " I asked. "No, I j u s t planned to be the lady working i n the post o f f i c e . W e l l , I d i d and I d i d n ' t . The work, the t r a i n i n g . I j u s t d i d n ' t have the ambition f o r i t , I guess t h a t was my t r o u b l e , (p. 142) 59 This e x p l a n a t i o n i s u n s a t i s f a c t o r y to D e l , who p a r t l y b e l i e v e s Naomi's s t o r y of Fern's i l l e g i t i m a t e c h i l d , which would provide the k i n d of com p e l l i n g reason she hopes to d i s c o v e r . To t e s t Naomi's theory, Del t r i e s to t r a p Fern i n t o b e t r a y i n g h e r s e l f : I took to n o t i c i n g p i c t u r e s of babies i n the paper, or i n magazines, when Fern was around, s a y i n g , "Aw, i s n ' t i t cute?" and then watching her c l o s e l y f o r a f l i c k e r of remorse, maternal l o n g i n g , as i f someday she might a c t u a l l y be persuaded to b u r s t i n t o t e a r s , f l i n g out her empty arms, s t r u c k to the h e a r t by an ad f o r talcum powder or s t r a i n e d meat. (pp. 143-4) The overwrought tone of the c l i c h e s belongs to a romantic n o v e l e t t e or one of Uncle Benny's t a b l o i d s . The t e s t i s a f a i l u r e , but the search of Fern's room turns up evidence about her which i s more complex and c o n t r a d i c t o r y than Del's ima g i n i n g s . Looking f o r Mr. Chamberlain's l e t t e r s , Del f i n d s three bundles of papers: a c h a i n l e t t e r , b i r t h c o n t r o l i n f o r m a t i o n , and smutty v e r s e s . L i k e the c o n f l i c t i n g s t o r i e s about Fern, these d i s c o v e r i e s show Del how d i f f i c u l t i t i s to know another person. When she a p p l i e s t h i s i n s i g h t to c r e a t i n g c h a r a c t e r i n f i c t i o n , she t r i e s to remove c o n t r a d i c t i o n s , but d i s c o v e r s t h a t the r e s u l t s do not s a t i s f y her. She i s d i s a p p o i n t e d i n her f i r s t n o v e l , which she sees as, "an u n r e l i a b l e s t r u c t u r e r i s i n g from t h i s house, the S h e r r i f f s , a few poor f a c t s , and e v e r y t h i n g t h a t was not t o l d " (p. 247). Del's eventual 60 meeting with Bobby S h e r r i f f f o r c e s her to compare her a r t i s t i c c r e a t i o n with r e a l i t y , whereupon she d i s c o v e r s t h a t she i s more i n t e r e s t e d i n what r e a l l y happened than i n what she has made up: And what happened, I asked myself, to Marian? Not to C a r o l i n e . What happened to Marian? What happened to Bobby S h e r r i f f when he had to stop baking cakes and go back to the asylum? Such questions p e r s i s t , i n s p i t e of n o v e l s , (p. 209) Del wants her novel to be more than an invented melodrama; she wants i t to connect with l i f e . In adopting the r o l e of mediator between experience and a r t , she i s conscious of the magnitude of the t a s k . She i s attempting to conjure up an e n t i r e town from memory i n a f u t i l e but g l o r i o u s e f f o r t to transcend the s e l e c t i v i t y which i s b u i l t i n t o a r t : And no l i s t c o u l d h o l d what I wanted, f o r what I wanted was every l a s t t h i n g , every l a y e r of speech and thought, s t r o k e of l i g h t on bark or w a l l s , every s m e l l , p o t h o l e , p a i n , c r a c k , d e l u s i o n , h e l d s t i l l and h e l d t o g e t h e r — r a d i a n t , e v e r l a s t i n g , (p. 249) The a l l - i n c l u s i v e f i c t i o n Del wants to w r i t e i s a p r a c t i c a l i m p o s s i b i l i t y but a worthy g o a l ; out of c l o s e a t t e n t i o n to the d e t a i l s of the past comes f i c t i o n with the documentary a u t h e n t i c i t y of Munro's own. In the e p i l o g u e , Del's r e l a t i o n s h i p to her memories p o i n t s o u t s i d e the t e x t to the author, but a l s o i n s i d e the t e x t to Uncle Benny's r e l a t i o n s h i p to h i s p o s s e s s i o n s i n "The F l a t s Road". Del hoards memories i n the same way as he hoards m a t e r i a l 61 t h i n g s : "He valued d e b r i s f o r i t s own sake and only-pretended, to h i m s e l f as w e l l as to o t h e r s , t h a t he meant to get some p r a c t i c a l use out of i t " (p. 4). The accumulation of two genera t i o n s i n Uncle Benny's house resembles the raw m a t e r i a l of f i c t i o n which Del f i n d s r a d i a n t and e v e r l a s t i n g . I t c o n t r a s t s with Uncle C r a i g ' s manuscript which she r e f u s e s to s t o r e i n the same room with her own w r i t i n g : I d i d n ' t want Uncle C r a i g ' s manuscript put back with the t h i n g s I had w r i t t e n . I t seemed so dead to me, so heavy and d u l l and u s e l e s s , t h a t I thought i t might deaden my t h i n g s t o o, and b r i n g me bad l u c k . (p. 62) The tendency of prose to deaden what i s l i v e l y and i n t e r e s t i n g i n i t s p r e - w r i t t e n form i n the w r i t e r ' s mind i s one of the f i r s t problems c o n f r o n t i n g Del when she attempts to w r i t e a n o v e l : Nobody knew about t h i s n o v e l . I had no need to t e l l anybody. I wrote out a few b i t s of i t and put them away, but soon I saw t h a t i t was a mistake to w r i t e anything down; what I wrote down might f l a w the beauty and wholeness of the novel i n my mind. (p. 241) In t r a n s p o s i n g the novel from an idea i n her mind to words on the page, Del i s faced with the a r t i s t ' s dilemma: a r t gi v e s form to l i f e , but i n so doing, robs i t of i t s i n c l u s i v e n e s s . How can the w r i t e r i n t e r p r e t experience when f o r c e d to d i s c a r d so much and use so l i t t l e ? Del never cl a i m s to have r e s o l v e d t h i s q u e s t i o n , which she r a i s e s i n the f i n a l segment of the work, "Epilogue: The Photographer". 62 LIVES ends ambiguously, y e t h o p e f u l l y , with Bobby S h e r r i f f s p a r t i n g gesture p r o v i d i n g a metaphor which i m p l i e s t h a t Del can succeed i n communicating her a r t i s t i c v i s i o n j u s t as t h i s "plump b a l l e r i n a " does: . . . he rose on h i s toes l i k e a dancer, l i k e a plump b a l l e r i n a . T h i s a c t i o n , accompanied by h i s d e l i c a t e s m i l e , appeared to be a joke not shared with me so much as d i s p l a y e d f o r me, and i t seemed a l s o to have a c o n c i s e meaning, a s t y l i z e d m e a n i n g — t o be a l e t t e r , or a whole word, i n an alphabet I d i d not know. (pp. 249-50) Del does not understand e x a c t l y what Bobby i s t e l l i n g her, but h i s good w i l l toward her comes through, and h i s example encourages her to make the e q u i v a l e n t e f f o r t to r i s e up on t i p t o e and become a w r i t e r . By ending with Del s a y i n g , yes, the t e x t leaves her a t the p o i n t where she i s about to begin w r i t i n g , thereby i m p l y i n g a c i r c u l a r s t r u c t u r e l e a d i n g back to the f i r s t segment. Moreover, t h i s opening s t o r y manages to suggest the mystery and ambiguity of a c t u a l experience by h o l d i n g c o n f l i c t i n g p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n suspension and r a i s i n g unanswered q u e s t i o n s . Is Madeleine b e a t i n g her c h i l d ? Is Uncle Benny a r e l i a b l e n a r r a t o r , or i s the whole f a b r i c of the t a l e a figment of h i s imagination? Mystery and ambiguity f i r s t enter the s t o r y through Benny's t a l l t a l e of Sandy Stevenson, and are strengthened by the s e n s a t i o n a l h e a d l i n e s i n the t a b l o i d newspapers he keeps p i l e d on h i s f r o n t porch. Together, they suggest a world which i s not o n l y d i a m e t r i c a l l y opposed to Del's mother's k i n d of world but a l s o i s a world whose e x i s t e n c e 63 she d e n i e s : "But you don't b e l i e v e t h a t , do you?" s a i d my mother with c h e e r f u l energy. She began e x p l a i n i n g how i t was a l l c o i n c i d e n c e , i m a g i n a t i o n , s e l f s u g g e s t i o n , (pp. 9-10) Although Del's mother has an a l t e r n a t i v e v i s i o n of the world, i t s r e l i a b i l i t y i s a l s o c a l l e d i n t o q u e s t i o n . When she b e l a t e d l y r e a l i z e s t h a t Madeleine i s b e a t i n g Diane, her c o n c l u s i o n i s based on the c i r c u m s t a n t i a l evidence of marks she remembers n o t i c i n g on the c h i l d ' s l e g s . These b r u i s e s r e c a l l the c o n c l u s i o n of Benny's s t o r y of Sandy Stevenson: "You go and ask Sandy Stevenson. I seen the b r u i s e s . I seen them myself" (p. 10). Since b r u i s e s have been used to co r r o b o r a t e a ghost s t o r y , t h e i r r e c u r r e n c e i n the context of Madeleine and Diane i n t r o d u c e s an element of doubt, which i s r e i n f o r c e d by Ada's being the c h a r a c t e r who reaches, the c o n c l u s i o n t h a t Madeleine beats her c h i l d . Ada i s naive i n many ways; her judgement i s r e p e a t e d l y questioned by the n a r r a t o r and her f a t h e r . She b e l i e v e s , f o r i n s t a n c e , t h a t the p o l i c e would i n s t i t u t e a search f o r Madeleine and Diane "nation-wide", and bias a r a t i o n a l i s t ' s f a i t h t h a t a s o l u t i o n e x i s t s f o r every problem: "I don't know what the h e s i t a t i o n i s about. I t ' s c r y s t a l c l e a r to me." But what was c r y s t a l c l e a r to my mother was o b v i o u s l y hazy and t e r r i f y i n g to Uncle Benny, (p. 21) The i r o n i c r e p e t i t i o n of her phrase " c r y s t a l c l e a r " 64 emphasizes the gap between the extremes which she and Uncle Benny r e p r e s e n t . In LIVES there i s a p e r s i s t e n t sense of d i s t a n c e between us and them: the members of Del's f a m i l y a t one p o l e , and the denizens of the F l a t s Road , p a r t i c u l a r l y Uncle Benny and h i s m a i l - o r d e r f a m i l y , a t the o t h e r . By r e p e a t e d l y r a i s i n g the q u e s t i o n of i t s own t r u t h , "The F l a t s Road" draws a t t e n t i o n to i t s e l f as a l i t e r a r y t e x t ; however, i t a l s o r e f e r s beyond i t s e l f to comment on human l o n e l i n e s s . Each i n d i v i d u a l i s l i k e l y to experience l i f e as i f he were i n h a b i t i n g a p r i v a t e world, r a t h e r than s h a r i n g a world i n common wit h other people. Because of t h i s sense of i s o l a t i o n , communication between i n d i v i d u a l s o f t e n f a i l s , sometimes i n ways t h a t are as t r a g i c o m i c as the meeting of Ada and Madeleine a t the grocery s t o r e . Madeleine r e f u s e s Ada's i n v i t a t i o n to v i s i t w ith t h i s excuse: "I don't walk nowhere on g r a v e l roads u n l e s s I have t o " (p. 16). To t h i s , Ada g i v e s the m a t t e r - o f - f a c t r e p l y t h a t she c o u l d come across the f i e l d s . There i s more than i n c i d e n t a l i r o n y i n their- c o n v e r s a t i o n s i n c e the p l o t turns on Madeleine's self-imposed i s o l a t i o n from the F l a t s Road community. By g r a n t i n g her the p r i v a c y she demands so f i e r c e l y , her neighbours become accomplices i n whatever she i s doing to her c h i l d . Demonstrably, Ada i s not the k i n d of person who uses ignorance as an excuse to evade moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Once she suspects Madeleine of c h i l d b a t t e r i n g , she wants to i n t e r v e n e to p r o t e c t the c h i l d , and she i s d i s t r e s s e d to 65 t h i n k t h a t she d i d not a c t sooner, as k i n g h e r s e l f , "Why d i d n ' t I t h i n k of i t myself? I f I'd known the t r u t h I c o u l d have r e p o r t e d her" (p. 20). No wonder she i s slow to r e a l i z e what i s happening. Since Madeleine i s a c r e a t u r e b e l o n g i n g to Uncle Benny's t a b l o i d world, Ada never q u i t e grasps her. F i n a l l y the n a r r a t o r admits the same d e f e a t . She can o n l y approach Madeleine at the d i s t a n c e of a s t o r y , r e c a l l i n g her "going down the road i n her red j a c k e t , with her legs l i k e s c i s s o r s " (p. 27). Even her v i o l e n c e transforms i t s e l f i n t o a wry joke, "Madeleine! That madwoman!" (p. 27) In r e t r o s p e c t , Madeleine and her abuse of her c h i l d seem p a r t of a grotesque t a l e t h a t cannot be t r u e ; but "The F l a t s Road" si m u l t a n e o u s l y a s s e r t s t h a t i t might be t r u e : "So l y i n g a l o n g s i d e our world was Uncle Benny's world l i k e a t r o u b l i n g d i s t o r t e d r e f l e c t i o n , the same but never at a l l the same" (p. 26). Del i s t r o u b l e d by the c l o s e n e s s of the Uncle Benny world where "lu c k and wickedness were g i g a n t i c and u n p r e d i c t a b l e " (p. 26). A nightmare sense of powerlessness pervades "The F l a t s Road", i m p l y i n g t h a t the i n d i v i d u a l ' s area of e f f e c t i v e n e s s i s extremely s m a l l . Once he leaves the country, which i s h i s proper sphere, and approaches the c i t y , Benny i s h e l p l e s s . Although Del's mother's common-sense s o l u t i o n s to the d i f f i c u l t i e s he encounters i n the c i t y occur to him as w e l l , nothing works: the gas s t a t i o n cannot supply a c i t y map, the heavy t r a f f i c f r u s t r a t e s h i s attempt to f o l l o w d i r e c t i o n s , and h i s 66 d e t e r m i n a t i o n ebbs away. The f u t i l i t y of Benny's attempt to rescue Diane suggests t h a t once the tenuous c o n t a c t between i n d i v i d u a l s i s l o s t , i t cannot be r e g a i n e d . Only i n c h i l d h o o d can Del move f r e e l y between a l t e r n a t e worlds. Growing up i s a process of s e a l i n g o f f the passages t h a t once provided access to d i f f e r e n t spheres. In "Heirs of the L i v i n g Body", Del g r a d u a l l y v i s i t s her aunts l e s s o f t e n : What c o u l d I ever say? T h e i r house became l i k e a t i n y s e a l e d - o f f country, with i t s own ornate customs and e l e g a n t l y , r i d i c u l o u s l y complicated language, where t r u e news of the o u t s i d e world was not e x a c t l y f o r b i d d e n , but became more and more i m p o s s i b l e to d e l i v e r , (p. 59) But news of the world o u t s i d e the imprisoned consciousness of the i n d i v i d u a l cannot enter except by means of messengers. In f a c t , the r o l e of messenger i s one of Del's most important f u n c t i o n s as a c h i l d , and one which she takes on l a t e r when she becomes a w r i t e r . E a r l y i n "The F l a t s Road", when she w r i t e s Uncle Benny's l e t t e r f o r him, Del becomes h i s amanuensis, a c r u c i a l p r e l i m i n a r y step on the way to becoming a w r i t e r . The l e t t e r t h a t he d i c t a t e s and Del w r i t e s o f f e r s a home to a woman whom Uncle Benny has never met. By i t s exaggerated account of the comforts t h a t he can p r o v i d e f o r the m a i l - o r d e r b r i d e , i t proclaims i t s e l f as much a f i c t i o n as any of Del's l a t e r s t o r i e s . By w r i t i n g the l e t t e r which b r i n g s Uncle Benny and Madeleine together, Del a c t s as i n t e r m e d i a r y , a r o l e she i s w e l l equipped to p l a y because of 67 her youth and a d a p t a b i l i t y . She h a p p i l y d i v i d e s her time between Uncle Benny's home and her own i n "The F l a t s Road", between her home and Jenkins Bend i n "Heirs to the L i v i n g Body", and between her home and Naomi's i n "Changes and Ceremonies". Del sees h e r s e l f as occupying a s p e c i a l p o s i t i o n with access t o p r i v i l e g e d i n f o r m a t i o n : " I t o f t e n seemed then t h a t nobody e l s e knew what r e a l l y went on or what a person was, but me" (p. 45). Because she has occupied more than one world, and people with d i f f e r i n g v iewpoints have c o n f i d e d i n her, she i s u n i q u e l y q u a l i f i e d to be a w r i t e r and speak f o r the people of her community. In " E p i l o g u e : The Photographer", she e x p l a i n s how her concept of w r i t i n g g r a d u a l l y expanded from an emphasis on imagining and i n v e n t i n g to an a p p r e c i a t i o n of o b s e r v i n g and d i s c o v e r i n g . Summarizing her f i r s t n o v e l , she r i d i c u l e s her y o u t h f u l tendency to exaggerate: For t h i s novel I had changed J u b i l e e , too, or pic k e d out some f e a t u r e s of i t and ign o r e d o t h e r s . . . . People i n i t were very t h i n , l i k e C a r o l i n e , or f a t as bubbles. T h e i r speech was s u b t l e and e v a s i v e and b i z a r r e l y s t u p i d ; t h e i r p l a t i t u d e s c r a c k l e d with madness. The season was always the h e i g h t of summer—white b r u t a l heat, dogs l y i n g as i f dead on the sidewalks, waves of a i r shuddering, j e l l y l i k e over the empty highway, (p. 243) Although Del i s d i s c u s s i n g her own n o v e l , she a l l u d e s to i t from the d i s t a n c e of memory f u r t h e r removed by i r o n y . U n l i k e her l e t t e r on Uncle Benny's b e h a l f , the novel i t s e l f does not appear i n the frame, except f o r an o c c a s i o n a l 68 phrase, "her womb swollen l i k e a hard y e l l o w gourd i n her  b e l l y " (p. 243), to d i s p l a y i t s h y p e r b o l i c tone. As Del r e c a l l s her p l o t , c h a r a c t e r s and s t y l e , her novel shows i t s e l f to be pasted together from borrowings from other w r i t e r s , with the r e s u l t t h a t i t never compels b e l i e f . Not o n l y are there f a u l t s i n s t y l e , but a l s o d e f i c i e n c i e s i n the would-be n o v e l i s t ' s understanding of her s u b j e c t . Although the S h e r r i f f f a m i l y i s the o r i g i n a l impetus f o r her n o v e l , Del does not know them w e l l . She i s only a t t r a c t e d to them because of t h e i r strangeness, and the s t o r y she t r i e s to t e l l i s a daydream about them: " A l l p i c t u r e s . The reasons f o r t h i n g s happening I seemed vaguely to know, but c o u l d not e x p l a i n " (p. 244). Such s e l f - i n d u l g e n t f a n t a s i z i n g i s f a r removed from the t r a n s f o r m i n g of r e a l i t y i n t o a r t , a process which demands a n a l y t i c a l t h i n k i n g as w e l l as i m a g i n a t i o n . D e s p i t e i t s excesses, however, Del's attempted novel has a dreamlike coherence on the l e v e l of metaphor. Her photographer embodies the q u a l i t i e s of the i d e a l a r t i s t . He i s a seer i n both senses of the word, observer and v i s i o n a r y . His photographs not o n l y r e c o r d experience but a l s o i n t e r p r e t i t . ^ The photographer suggests t h a t Del can a l r e a d y c r e a t e powerful imaginary c h a r a c t e r s , but even he shows the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c vagueness of l i t e r a r y p o r t r a i t s not drawn from l i f e . Moreover, he bears a c l o s e resemblance to Hawthorne's d a g u e r r e o t y p i s t whose p i c t u r e of the judge r e v e a l s the u l t i m a t e t r u t h about i t s s u b j e c t i n THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES. 69 Del sees her novel's f a i l i n g s most c l e a r l y i n the i m p l a u s i b l e death she has arranged f o r her h e r o i n e , C a r o l i n e . Now Del i s beset by " n i g g l i n g c o n s i d e r a t i o n s of f a c t " , as common-sense o b j e c t i o n s to her p l o t begin to occur to her, such as the e f f e c t the low water l e v e l of the Wawanash Ri v e r i n summer w i l l have on C a r o l i n e ' s s u i c i d e : "Instead of moving, head bowed, moonlight-naked, a c q u i e s c e n t , i n t o i t s depths, C a r o l i n e would have to l i e down on her face as i f she was drowning h e r s e l f i n the bathtub" (pp. 243-4). The marked s h i f t i n her a t t i t u d e to her novel i n t h i s passage i s t y p i c a l of the e p i l o g u e , i n which she uses i r o n y a g a i n s t h e r s e l f more s h a r p l y than b e f o r e . C l e a r l y , she c o n s i d e r s t h i s attempt at n o v e l - w r i t i n g a f a i l u r e , and s i n c e she r a r e l y judges her past behaviour i n terms of p a s s i n g or f a i l i n g , t h i s f i n a l , s e l f - c r i t i c a l note i s a s i g n of change. Whereas she can pass through her sexual i n i t i a t i o n process with Mr. Chamberlain, J e r r y Storey, and Garnet, always i n s i s t i n g t h a t she i s undamaged and unrepentant, she must see the fundamental wrongness of her f i r s t approach to w r i t i n g f i c t i o n b e f o r e she can progress beyond f a n t a s y to a r t . In a c c e p t i n g Bobby S h e r r i f f s i n v i t a t i o n onto the porch, she takes an important a r t i s t i c s t e p : she f o r c e s h e r s e l f to t e s t her f a n t a s y a g a i n s t r e a l i t y . U n t i l then, she has seen h e r s e l f as the o u t s i d e r , with the community as audience; but Bobby S h e r r i f f h a i l s her on the b a s i s of t h e i r commonality, he as a former u n i v e r s i t y student, and she as a 70 p r o s p e c t i v e one. He g i v e s her a d v i c e : "When you go to c o l l e g e you must look a f t e r your d i e t . That i s very important. . . . You have to n o u r i s h the b r a i n i f you want to use the b r a i n " (pp. 247-8). Bobby's d i a t r i b e on nourishment and the b r a i n culminates i n Del's e a t i n g the cake he has baked, suggesting t h a t she takes him i n t o h e r s e l f ; t h e r e f o r e , she i s enabled to express h i s t r u t h i n her f i c t i o n . O f f e r e d without i c i n g , Bobby's cake i m p l i e s o r d i n a r y l i f e unembellished by the melodrama of cloaked photographers and s u i c i d a l nymphomaniac h e r o i n e s . When Bobby r i s e s on h i s t i p t o e s , he i s saying two t h i n g s : n o t i c e me, and use me i n f i c t i o n . The c l o s i n g i n c i d e n t i s , t h e r e f o r e , a c r u c i a l one f o r Del as a r t i s t . Before she can f i n d her a r t i s t i c v o i c e , she must change her a t t i t u d e to the people i n her immediate v i c i n i t y , and r e c o g n i z e i n them the depth and v i t a l i t y from which to make f i c t i o n which has the a u t h e n t i c i t y t h a t comes of being rooted i n p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e . Whereas the photographer i s an obvious and heavy-handed symbol of the a r t i s t , Bobby S h e r r i f f i s s u b t l e and p a r a d o x i c a l , much l i k e the people Munro d e s c r i b e s i n "Open L e t t e r " : One of the t h i n g s f a s c i n a t i n g to a f i c t i o n w r i t e r about such towns i s the way people l i v e i n the eyes of o t h e r s . Every l i f e i s a drama, everybody i s on stage. People are c a s t , they are d e f i n e d , p l a c e d i n r o l e s which they tamper with at t h e i r p e r i l . I t i s not t r u e t h a t such a p l a c e w i l l not a l l o w e c c e n t r i c i t y . Oddity i s necessary, j u s t as much as s i n i s ; i t i s j u s t t h a t both t h i n g s must be c l a s s i f i e d , d e c l a r e d and a p p r e c i a t e d , and t h a t there i s no way back 71 when t h i s road i s taken. W i t h i n these f i r m d e f i n i t i o n s — a n d t ouching them, perhaps a t h a r d l y any p o i n t s — l i v e bewildered and complicated people. They are d r i v e n to c u r i o u s escape hatches, sometimes, or exaggerated performances. Which i s something f i c t i o n can be made from. 9 Bobby S h e r r i f f i s a prime example of a man who has taken on the r o l e of town madman, and i s now trapped w i t h i n i t . In a work preoccupied with s t o r y t e l l i n g , Bobby i s the l a s t s t o r y t e l l e r . He o f f e r s a p e c u l i a r l y u n s a t i s f a c t o r y e x p l a n a t i o n f o r h i s madness and wishes Del luck with her l i f e , a f i n a l b e n e d i c t i o n which completes the l i t e r a r y a p p r e n t i c e s h i p begun the summer when she was a c h i l d about to enter grade f o u r , and Uncle Benny demanded an answer to the q u e s t i o n , "Can you w r i t e ? " (p. 10). 72 Notes 1 A l i c e Munro, LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1971), p. 1. Subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 2 . James Polk, "Deep Caves and Ki t c h e n Linoleum," r e v . of LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN, by A l i c e Munro, CANADIAN LITERATURE, No. 54 (1972), p. 103. 3 J.R. (Tim) S t r u t h e r s , " A l i c e Munro and the American South," THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES, 6 No. 2 (1975), p. 19 7; r p t . i n THE CANADIAN NOVEL HERE AND NOW, ed. John Moss (Toronto: N.C. Pre s s , 1978), p. 122. 4 Lind a Margaret L e i t c h , " A l i c e Munro's F i c t i o n : E x p l o r a t i o n s i n Open Forms," M.A. t h e s i s Univ. of Guelph 1980, p. 45. 5 Margaret Laurence, "Time and the N a r r a t i v e V o i c e , " i n THE NARRATIVE VOICE, ed. John M e t c a l f e (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1972), p. 128. 6 A l f r e d Tennyson, THE PRINCESS I. 134-5 i n THE POETRY OF TENNYSON, ed. C h r i s t o p h e r Ricks (London: Longmans, 1969), p. 755. 7 Geoff Hancock, ed., MAGIC REALISM: AN ANTHOLOGY (Toronto: Aya Pre s s , 1980), p. 10. 8 See a l s o , Brandon Conron, "Munro's Wonderland," CANADIAN LITERATURE No. 78 (1978), p. 110 . 9 A l i c e Munro, "An Open L e t t e r , " JUBILEE No. 1 (1974), p. 6. 73 Chapter Three R e l i n q u i s h i n g A u t h o r i t y SOMETHING, p u b l i s h e d between LIVES and WHO, i s a s h o r t s t o r y c o l l e c t i o n whose o r g a n i z i n g p r i n c i p l e i s not 1 immediately apparent. Whereas a s i n g l e v o i c e u n i f i e s LIVES as Del's s t o r y and WHO as Rose's, a v a r i e t y of v o i c e s recount the s t o r i e s i n SOMETHING. N e v e r t h e l e s s , the separate s t o r i e s are l i n k e d through the r e c u r r i n g theme of u n c e r t a i n r e l a t i o n s between the genera t i o n s and the sexes, as w e l l as a pervading tone of r e g r e t or baff l e m e n t . L i k e Janus, SOMETHING looks i n two d i r e c t i o n s : back to a f a m i l y l i k e the Jordans of DANCE and LIVES, and ahead to women who are more l i k e Rose, the c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r of WHO. In "Winter Wind" and "The Ottawa V a l l e y " , the r u r a l s e t t i n g and the f a m i l y dominated by i t s female members are f a m i l i a r from Munro's pr e v i o u s works, but i n " T e l l Me Yes or No" and "The Spanish Lady", the new p r o t a g o n i s t s who begin to emerge are more d i s i l l u s i o n e d than Del Jordan. U n l i k e the i r r e p r e s s i b l e Del,they s u f f e r disappointment a t the hands of husbands and l o v e r s , thereby l e a r n i n g p a i n f u l lessons i n s e l f - r e l i a n c e , a p a t t e r n which Munro l a t e r b r i n g s to i t s f u l l development i n WHO. Not o n l y the s e n s i b i l i t y of the c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r changes i n SOMETHING, but a l s o the tone of the n a r r a t i v e . In h i s 1982 i n t e r v i e w with A l i c e Munro, Tim S t r u t h e r s 74 comments: "SOMETHING I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU e s t a b l i s h e s a r e l a t i v e l y new and more mysterious tone f o r your work."*' The mystery t h a t S t r u t h e r s d i s c e r n s i s r e f l e c t e d i n the form of the s t o r i e s . Although i n LIVES Del t a l k s about her sense of l i f e as a mysterious process, LIVES i s not a mysterious book because Del e s t a b l i s h e s h e r s e l f as a r e l i a b l e n a r r a t o r , a young w r i t e r bent on g e t t i n g a t the t r u t h of her p a s t . T h e r e f o r e , the reader can o r i e n t h i m s e l f with her p o i n t of view. She t e l l s what happened i n a v o i c e which remains separate from the n a r r a t i v e and s l i g h t l y s u p e r i o r to i t s i n c e t h i s i s her o l d e r and wiser s e l f remembering an e a r l i e r p e r i o d i n her l i f e . In SOMETHING, however, the n a r r a t o r s are l e s s r e l i a b l e guideposts; d i s t i n c t i o n s between what d i d happen and what might have happened become b l u r r e d . Compared to the y o u t h f u l D e l , who o p t i m i s t i c a l l y b e l i e v e s t h a t she w i l l e v e n t u a l l y l e a r n to express the t r u t h , these n a r r a t o r s are jaded and confused, more aware of the l i m i t a t i o n s of s t o r y t e l l i n g than i t s p o s s i b i l i t i e s . One reason f o r the d i f f e r e n c e s between SOMETHING and the e a r l i e r books i s t h a t i t was w r i t t e n d u r i n g a p e r i o d of c r e a t i v e experimentation when Munro attempted to change her form from the s h o r t s t o r y to the n o v e l . Although she began the t i t l e s t o r y i n t e n d i n g i t to be a n o v e l , i t g r a d u a l l y evolved i n t o a s h o r t s t o r y : You know I r e a l l y wanted to w r i t e a novel of t h a t s t o r y . Then i t j u s t s o r t of b o i l e d down l i k e 75 maple syrup. A l l I had l e f t was t h a t s t o r y . For me, i t would have been d a r i n g to s t r e t c h t h a t m a t e r i a l out i n t o a f u l l n o v e l . I wouldn't be sure i t had the s t r e n g t h . So I don't take t h a t chance .3 Although Munro's d e s c r i p t i o n of h e r s e l f as a t i m i d w r i t e r l a c k i n g the n o v e l i s t ' s courage i s too s e l f - d e p r e c a t i n g , she i s probably r i g h t i n choosing the sh o r t s t o r y as the b e t t e r v e h i c l e f o r the e f f e c t s she wants to ac h i e v e . For her, w r i t i n g i n chapters proved d i s a p p o i n t i n g : But there always comes a p o i n t where e v e r y t h i n g seems to be g e t t i n g r e a l l y f l a t . You don't f e e l the t e n s i o n . I can go on w r i t i n g i t so many words a day, and I p r e t t y w e l l know where i t has to go, but I don't f e e l t h i s p u l l i n g on the rope to get to the other s i d e t h a t I have to f e e l . And so I always do the same t h i n g . I go back. I chop i t up. I make i t i n t o these t h i n g s t h a t I can . . . . ^ Her d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with chapter w r i t i n g stems from l o s i n g the t e n s i o n produced by the g r e a t e r compression of the short s t o r y . The analogy of p u l l i n g on a rope helps d e s c r i b e not only the w r i t e r ' s f e e l i n g s but a l s o the e f f e c t on the rea d e r . The chopping Munro mentions i s ev i d e n t i n sudden time s h i f t s , the abrupt switch from experience to a dream or a s t o r y r e c a l l e d from the p a s t . She b u i l d s t e n s i o n by ju x t a p o s i n g memory and the pre s e n t , nudging the reader to f i t t o gether the fragments and so d i s c o v e r t h e i r meaning. The g r e a t e r formal complexity of Munro's l a t e r w r i t i n g , expressed i n her i n c r e a s e d use of embedded s t o r i e s , and experiments with v o i c e and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n a r r a t o r s , 76 i n t r o d u c e ambiguity i n t o s t o r i e s whose f i c t i o n a l nature i s d i s g u i s e d by a c a r e f u l s t r u c t u r e of everyday d e t a i l which r e a s s u r e s and convinces the reader t h a t he i s being t o l d f a c t u a l t r u t h . E x p l a i n i n g how her i m a g i n a t i o n works, the n a r r a t o r of " T e l l Me Yes or No" sounds remarkably l i k e Munro i n d i r e c t l y c o n f i d i n g her own a r t i s t i c method: Would you l i k e to know how I was informed of your death? I go i n t o the f a c u l t y k i t c h e n , to make myself a cup of c o f f e e before my ten o ' c l o c k c l a s s . Dodie C h a r l e s who i s always baking something has brought a c h e r r y pound cake. (The t h i n g we o l d pros know about, i n these f a n t a s i e s , i s the importance of d e t a i l , s o l i d i t y ; yes, a c h e r r y pound cake.) (p. 109) Undoubtedly, the roundness, redness, and sweetness of c h e r r i e s compel b e l i e f not o n l y i n the a u t h e n t i c i t y of the cake, but a l s o i n the d i s c o v e r y of the l o v e r ' s death i n an a r t i c l e from the newspaper wrapped around the cake. The s u r p r i s i n g r e v e l a t i o n , made c o n v i n c i n g by means of the homely d e t a i l , i s t y p i c a l of Munro's n a r r a t i v e technique. In the t i t l e s t o r y , f o r example, B l a i k i e Noble's bus passengers tour an Indian graveyard, limestone gardens, and a m i l l i o n a i r e ' s mansion. These f a c t u a l d e t a i l s promote b e l i e f i n an a c t u a l town, but the town's name, Mock H i l l , i n t r o d u c e s an element of doubt. The reader i s permitted the i l l u s i o n of r e a l i t y , but i s reminded t h a t i t i s an i l l u s i o n . C o n trary to Munro's assessment of h e r s e l f as a w r i t e r who h e s i t a t e s to take a chance, i n SOMETHING she shows h e r s e l f w i l l i n g to take r i s k s to push a t the l i m i t s of s t o r y t e l l i n g . 77 As the t i t l e suggests, the c o l l e c t i o n i s preoccupied w i t h meaning and t e l l i n g , e x p l o r i n g the paradox of t e l l i n g as the means of h i d i n g meaning, and s i l e n c e as the means of r e v e l a t i o n . A c c o r d i n g l y , i n the t i t l e s t o r y , E t ' s major d i s c l o s u r e s are l e s s s i g n i f i c a n t than the statements she omits: of her love f o r A r t h u r , her j e a l o u s y of Char, her g u i l t over Char's death. S t r u c t u r a l l y "Something" i s much more complex than "Postcard", an e a r l i e r s t o r y from DANCE s i m i l a r l y concerned with a woman j i l t e d . P o s s i b i l i t i e s m u l t i p l y : E t d i s c o v e r s r a t poison i n a k i t c h e n cupboard; Arthur i s i l l ; Char i s unhappy. The reader i s i n v i t e d to i n f e r more than one p o s s i b l e n a r r a t i v e sequence. The n a r r a t i v e of "Postcard", which a l s o concerns a love a f f a i r i n a small town, i s kept t r a n s p a r e n t to encourage the reader to f o r g e t t h a t he i s engaged i n re a d i n g a s t o r y ; "Something I've Been Meaning to T e l l You", however, d e l i b e r a t e l y r a i s e s the i s s u e of f i c t i o n versus f a c t when Char i s found dead: "There was no f u s s about the cause of death as there i s i n s t o r i e s " (p. 23). B l a i k i e Noble, over whom Char may have committed s u i c i d e , attends her f u n e r a l and keeps h i s remorse, i f any, to h i m s e l f : He had come back to Mock H i l l on the day Char was found. A few hours too l a t e , l i k e some s t o r y . Et i n . h e r n a t u r a l c o n f u s i o n c o u l d not remember what i t was. Romeo and J u l i e t , she thought l a t e r . But B l a i k i e of course d i d not do away with h i m s e l f a f t e r w a r d s , he went back to Toronto" (p. 23). Comparing i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y i n t h i s f a s h i o n demonstrates 78 how d i f f i c u l t i t i s to know what i s tr u e i n a c t u a l experience as w e l l as i n s t o r i e s . S e p a r a t i n g the t r u t h from the i l l u s i o n becomes the p r o t a g o n i s t ' s c o m p e l l i n g t a s k . The n a r r a t o r s i n SOMETHING c o n s i d e r the e t h i c s of s t o r y t e l l i n g and w r i t i n g f i c t i o n . " M a t e r i a l " examines a w r i t e r , Hugo, through the eyes of a n a r r a t o r who was once married to him. She r i d i c u l e s the capsule biography which accompanies one of h i s s h o r t s t o r i e s . To the jaundiced eye of a former w i f e , the legend of l i t e r a r y he-man, which the biography promotes, i s not a tr u e p i c t u r e of Hugo: "But l i s t e n to the l i e s , the h a l f - l i e s , the a b s u r d i t i e s " (p. 29). She c h i d e s him f o r l e a v i n g out h i s former job as examination marker even though he p r e f e r r e d i t to the r o b u s t l y masculine occupations he i s a t pains to l i s t . One a f t e r another, the n a r r a t o r ' s memories of the p e r i o d when she l i v e d with him i n a Vancouver apartment c o n t r a d i c t the f l a t t e r i n g s e l f - p o r t r a i t he has produced f o r p u b l i c a t i o n . According to h i s ex-wife, he i s s e l f i s h , unsympathetic, e x p l o i t i v e , i r r e s p o n s i b l e , a " f i l t h y moral i d i o t " (p. 41); y e t , she admits having p a r t i c i p a t e d with him i n the game of tr a n s f o r m i n g Dotty, who l i v e d i n the basement apartment, i n t o a f i c t i o n . L i k e Hugo, the n a r r a t o r r e f e r r e d to D o t t i e as " t h e - h a r l o t - i n - r e s i d e n c e " and her mother as "the Green Hornet". But as she came to know Dotty b e t t e r , she grew r e l u c t a n t to make these jokes or r e p o r t Dotty's remarks to Hugo: "I got fonder of Dotty, used to her, l e s s l i k e l y to s t o r e up and repeat what she s a i d " (p. 37). Because she was 79 k i n d e r to Dotty, the n a r r a t o r regarded h e r s e l f as Hugo's s u p e r i o r ; now, however, she i s f o r c e d to re-examine t h e i r r e l a t i v e merits i n l i g h t of an a s t o n i s h i n g l y p e r c e p t i v e s t o r y Hugo has w r i t t e n about Dotty: There i s Dotty l i f t e d out of l i f e and h e l d i n l i g h t , suspended i n the marvellous c l e a r j e l l y t h a t Hugo has spent a l l h i s l i f e l e a r n i n g how to make. I t i s an a c t of magic, there i s no g e t t i n g around i t ; i t i s an a c t you might say, of a s p e c i a l , unsparing, unsentimental l o v e " (p. 43) . The r e v e l a t i o n i n Hugo's s t o r y of an unsuspected c a p a c i t y f o r love takes the n a r r a t o r by s u r p r i s e . By c a l l i n g Hugo's w r i t i n g a m a n i f e s t a t i o n of "unsentimental l o v e " , she i m p l i e s t h a t what she h e r s e l f f e l t f o r Dotty was mere s e n t i m e n t a l i t y . Whatever Hugo's past crimes a g a i n s t Dotty, he has redeemed h i m s e l f by making her i n t o a s t o r y which i s as luminous as " c l e a r j e l l y " . T h i s c o n v i n c i n g defense of the a r t i s t ' s r i g h t to s p e c i a l s t a t u s i s emphasized by i t s p o s i t i o n as a c o n c l u d i n g statement which r e v e r s e s the n a r r a t o r ' s e a r l i e r d e c l a r a t i o n t h a t Hugo's moral lapses are i n d e f e n s i b l e . Hugo's s t o r y of Dotty i s the e n a b l i n g s p r i n g which launches the unexpected ending; t h e r e f o r e , i t i s a s t r u c t u r a l n e c e s s i t y . The n a r r a t o r does not e x p l a i n the s u b t l e ways i n which Hugo's a r t changes her p e r c e p t i o n s , but she a l l u d e s to the process i n the phrase, "act of magic" one of s e v e r a l r e f e r e n c e s to magic i n t h i s volume. Magic a l s o occurs i n "Walking on Water", when Mr. Lougheed r e a c t s to the books on h i s young f r i e n d Eugene's 80 s h e l v e s : Mr. Lougheed's eyes had s t r a y e d to a s h e l f of another k i n d of books Eugene read, which d i d not seem to him to t i e i n too r e a d i l y w i t h the f i r s t k i n d . These books were by and about people who made prop h e c i e s , they were about a s t r a l bodies and p s y c h i c experiences and s u p e r n a t u r a l powers and every k i n d of hoax or magic, i f t h a t was what you wanted to c a l l i t . ( p . 74) By c a t a l o g u i n g the books' co n t e n t s , the n a r r a t o r not o n l y suggests the p a r t i c u l a r ideas which t h r e a t e n Mr. Lougheed's reasoned response to l i f e , but a l s o invokes the changed i n t e l l e c t u a l atmosphere of the decade, summed up by the ki n d of books which many young people were r e a d i n g . L i k e the h i p p i e t r i o , C a l l a , Rex and Rover, books on the o c c u l t help p l a c e the s t o r y i n the nineteen s i x t i e s . Since Eugene's books on mysticism and r e l a t e d matters share h i s shelves w i t h the p h i l o s o p h i c a l w r i t i n g s of Heidegger, Kant, and T e i l h a r d de Chardin, t h i n k e r s Mr. Lougheed admires, they r e f l e c t the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s i n Eugene's p e r s o n a l i t y which d i s c o m f i t Mr. Lougheed. To the r e t i r e d d r u g g i s t , l i f e i s a d i a l e c t i c between reason and unreason, but to Eugene the two s t a t e s are not n e c e s s a r i l y e x c l u s i v e . He embraces paradox, r e p l y i n g to Mr. Lougheed's suggestion t h a t h i s pl a n to walk on water i s some ki n d of joke: " I t c o u l d be, a s e r i o u s k i n d of joke" (p. 74). Eugene seems to be advocating something l i k e Keats' ne g a t i v e c a p a b i l i t y : " that i s when man i s capable of being i n u n c e r t a i n t i e s , M y s t e r i e s , doubts, without any i r r i t a b l e 81 r e a c h i n g a f t e r f a c t & reason".5 Keats' e p i t h e t " i r r i t a b l e " a p t l y d e s c r i b e s Mr. Lougheed's exasperated attempts to pen e t r a t e the detachment of those around him as he pursues the t r a d i t i o n a l course of a man of good w i l l , and assumes the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r Eugene's w e l l - b e i n g t h a t goes with f r i e n d s h i p . The s t a t e of mind e n v i s i o n e d by Keats and advocated by Eugene i s beyond Mr. Lougheed, although he t r i e s to understand because of h i s i n s t i n c t i v e l i k i n g and r e s p e c t f o r Eugene. Attempting to read Eugene's books on magic, he cannot make out what the young man sees i n them: "Using a word out of h i s own youth, he t o l d Eugene t h a t a l l t h i s had him stumped" (p. 74). The word "stumped" with i t s outworn r u r a l c o n n o t a t i o n s , m i r r o r s the outdated views of an o l d man at odds with the urban young people among whom he now l i v e s . Again i n " T e l l Me Yes or No", the n a r r a t o r d e s c r i b e s books on magic i n Barbara's Book Mart: Other books deal with magic, there are r e a l l y hundreds of books about witches, s p e l l s , c l a i r v o y a n c e , r i t u a l s , a l l kinds of t r i c k s and wonders, (p. 119) The l i s t of s u b j e c t s c o n t a i n e d i n these books warns the reader a g a i n s t comfortable assumptions t h a t would l i m i t r e a l i t y t o what i s r e a d i l y e x p l a i n a b l e . The same s t r a t e g y operates i n "Forgiveness i n F a m i l i e s " , i n which a dying woman m i r a c u l o u s l y r e c o v e r s from a heart a t t a c k . T o l d from the b i a s e d p o i n t of view of her 82 daughter, the s t o r y r e l a t e s how the woman's c o n d i t i o n i s so grave t h a t doctors and nurses do not expect her to s u r v i v e the n i g h t . As the n a r r a t o r keeps v i g i l i n the h o s p i t a l , her ne'er-do-well b r o t h e r , a member of an unnamed r e l i g i o u s c u l t , a r r i v e s with h i s "brother p r i e s t s " and i n s i s t s upon conducting a prayer r i t u a l which he c l a i m s w i l l heal h i s mother. Next morning, the mother's c o n d i t i o n has improved g r e a t l y , and the n a r r a t o r i s l e f t w ith mixed f e e l i n g s of r e l i e f and disappointment. Although she presents her b r o t h e r as a s e l f i s h d i l e t t a n t e whose enthusiasms are shallow and s h o r t - l i v e d , she cannot be sure t h a t h i s i n c a n t a t i o n s have not worked magic upon t h e i r s i c k mother. Since the n a r r a t o r ' s exasperated tone keeps the reader a t a d i s t a n c e , she f a i l s to a t t r a c t sympathy when she s u f f e r s the blow to her p r i d e which r e s u l t s from her b r o t h e r ' s magical success. Instead,the s t o r y has an a i r of a r t i f a c e . Munro i s l e s s i n t e r e s t e d i n c o n v i n c i n g the reader t h a t events took p l a c e as d e s c r i b e d , than i n e x p l o r i n g the dynamics of t h i s b r o t h e r - s i s t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p . C a l l i n g a t t e n t i o n to the d i f f e r e n c e s between the expected and a c t u a l outcome of her mother's i l l n e s s , the n a r r a t o r d i r e c t s a t t e n t i o n toward the conventions of f i c t i o n , and s i m u l t a n e o u s l y , employs the n a r r a t i v e convention of r e v e r s i n g s t e r e o t y p e s . Reduced to i t s essence, the s t o r y transforms good s i s t e r and bad b r o t h e r i n t o bad s i s t e r and good b r o t h e r , u s i n g p r i d e , the n a r r a t o r ' s b e s e t t i n g s i n , to j u s t i f y the s w i t c h . Along s i m i l a r l i n e s , "Memorial" and "Winter Wind" a l s o 83 examine proud i n d i v i d u a l s bent on c o n t r o l l i n g l i f e r a t h e r than s u b m i t t i n g to i t . The n a r r a t o r of "Memorial" admits to p e r i o d i c f e e l i n g s of h e l p l e s s n e s s : Compared to June, she d i d l i v e i r r e s p o n s i b l y . E i l e e n had to see t h i s , she had to admit i t . Her l a z y garbage a l l thrown t o g e t h e r , her cupboards under t h e i r s u r f a c e t i d i n e s s b u r s t i n g with chaos, (pp. 209-10) Although she c a s t i g a t e s h e r s e l f f o r her f a i l u r e s i n managing everyday r o u t i n e , E i l e e n i s not convinced t h a t her s i s t e r ' s way of l i f e i s s u p e r i o r to hers: Here was a system of d i g e s t i o n which found e v e r y t h i n g to i t s purposes. I t stuck a t nothi n g . Japanese gardens, pornographic movies, a c c i d e n t a l death. A l l of them accepted, chewed and a l t e r e d , a s s i m i l a t e d , destroyed, (p. 216) June's consumer-like d e t e r m i n a t i o n to savor a l l a v a i l a b l e experiences i s a p p a l l i n g when i t extends to her son's death. E i l e e n ' s c o n t r a s t i n g h e l p l e s s n e s s appears a humane and necessary accomodation to the in e s c a p a b l e c o n d i t i o n s of m o r t a l i t y and g r i e f . L i f e as f i c t i o n pervades these s t o r i e s . June's way of l i f e , f o r i n s t a n c e , i s c a r e f u l l y c o n s t r u c t e d to deny the haphazard q u a l i t y of e x i s t e n c e . In t h i s she resembles the grandmother i n "Winter Wind", who married "while s t i l l i n love w i t h , though very angry a t , another man" (p. 200). For the r e s t of her l i f e , the grandmother bears the consequences of her e a r l y d e c i s i o n , and never r e l i n q u i s h e s her f i r s t l o v e , " t h a t s e l f - g l o r i f y i n g dangerous s e l f - d e n y i n g 84 p a s s i o n , never s a t i s f i e d , never r i s k e d , to l a s t a l i f e t i m e " (p. 200) . By marrying the wrong man, the grandmother achieves c o n t r o l over her r e j e c t e d s u i t o r , whose c o u r t s h i p of her i s b e l i e v e d to have p e r s i s t e d d e s p i t e h i s s e v e r a l marriages. With a new t e n t a t i v e n e s s and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s , the n a r r a t o r of "Winter Wind", l i k e the n a r r a t o r of "Memorial", que s t i o n s the v a l i d i t y of her i n t e r p r e t a t i o n : "And how i s anybody to know, I t h i n k as I put t h i s down, how am I to know what I c l a i m to know?" (p. 201) The n a r r a t o r has p i e c e d together her grandmother's s t o r y from scraps of evidence accumulated over y e a r s , but a s t o r y l i k e " T e l l Me Yes or No" goes beyond s p e c u l a t i o n to observe the mental process of t r a n s f o r m i n g the experience of love i n t o f i c t i o n . The necessary elements are memory, l e t t e r s and i m a g i n a t i o n , with d i s t a n c e of both time and space a c t i n g as a c a t a l y s t . The s u p p o s i t i o n i s t h a t l e t t e r s from an absent l o v e r stop a r r i v i n g . Instead of r e c o u n t i n g her r e a c t i o n to the c e s s a t i o n of l e t t e r s and d e s c r i b i n g what subsequently happens, the n a r r a t o r proposes v a r i o u s p o s s i b l e d i r e c t i o n s i n which the p l o t might u n f o l d . A study of ob s e s s i v e p a s s i o n , " T e l l Me Yes or No" concerns a p r o t a g o n i s t attempting to cure h e r s e l f of a love which causes her more s u f f e r i n g than i t i s worth: Love i s not i n the l e a s t unavoidable, there i s a ch o i c e made. I t i s j u s t t h a t i t i s hard to know when the ch o i c e was made, or when, i n s p i t e of seeming f r i v o l o u s , i t became i r r e v e r s i b l e , (p. H I ) 85 As b e f o r e , drawing the l i n e between the p r o v i s i o n a l and the a b s o l u t e i s the d i f f i c u l t y . In LIVES, Del i d e n t i f i e d t h i s d i f f e r e n c e between h e r s e l f and Garnet French: she had committed h e r s e l f to him o n l y p r o v i s i o n a l l y , whereas he had committed h i m s e l f to her a b s o l u t e l y . E x a c t l y how t h i s surrender of s e l f to the loved one i s accomplished remains mysterious, but the process i s suspected of being i r r a t i o n a l and having dangerous consequences. The n a r r a t o r of " T e l l Me Yes or No" would a v o i d i t i f p o s s i b l e : "I had some time b e f o r e t h i s given up on i n t r i g u e s , on anxious s u b p l o t s " (p. I l l ) . By equating f a l l i n g i n love w i t h s u b p l o t , the n a r r a t o r shows how, f o r her, s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s i s n a r r a t i v e - c o n s c i o u s n e s s : She sees her l i f e as a s t o r y u n f o l d i n g . A c c o r d i n g l y , an exchange of s t o r i e s precedes lovemaking even when i t i s a c a s u a l indulgence: But a f t e r a while I do t e l l somebody, a man I work with, Gus Marks. He has r e c e n t l y separated from h i s w i f e . He takes me out to d i n n e r and we d r i n k and t e l l each other our s t o r i e s , then mostly on my i n i t i a t i v e go to bed (p. 110) Sharing s t o r i e s a t l e a s t extends the length of time the man and woman are together, and the r e c i t a t i o n of past h i s t o r i e s c r e a t e s an i l l u s i o n of c l o s e n e s s which lends humanity to t h e i r l i a i s o n . In the case of the l o v e r addressed as "you" by the n a r r a t o r , a shared past i s a powerful a p h r o d i s i a c . The n a r r a t o r s p e c u l a t e s t h a t she e s p e c i a l l y loved t h i s man f o r having known her years b e f o r e : 86 I loved you f o r l i n k i n g me with my p a s t , with my young s e l f pushing the s t r o l l e r along the campus paths, innocent through no f a u l t of my own. I f I c o u l d k i n d l e love then and take i t now there was l e s s waste than I had thought, (p. 113) The i d e a of a love re-awakened from an e a r l i e r time a t t r a c t s her by i t s power to u n i f y past and present, and p r o v i d e a s t o r y l i k e coherence which the random events of experience seem to p r e c l u d e . By the end of " T e l l Me Yes or No", the n a r r a t o r ' s f a n t a s i e s are so interwoven with her account of what has happened t h a t i t i s i m p o s s i b l e to separate the two. The c o n f u s i o n i s i n t e n t i o n a l , r e f l e c t i n g the n a r r a t o r ' s confused f e e l i n g s , the unknowable extent to which her love i s a f i c t i o n i n her own mind, r a t h e r than a f a c t v e r i f i a b l e i n e x p e r i e n c e . The dreamlike journey to the dead l o v e r ' s c i t y and the c o n f r o n t a t i o n with the l o v e r ' s widow are p r o f e r e d o n l y to be withdrawn i n the hypnotic c o n c l u s i o n : Nevermind. I invented her. I invented you, as f a r as my purposes go. I invented l o v i n g you and I invented your death. I have my t r i c k s and my t r a p d o o r s , too. I don't understand t h e i r workings a t the present moment, but I have to be c a r e f u l , I won't speak a g a i n s t them. (p. 124) Not o n l y i s the n a r r a t o r unable to e x p l a i n her f i c t i o n s , but a l s o she would r e f u s e to do so even i f she c o u l d . The c o n c l u s i o n draws a t t e n t i o n to the f i c t i o n a l i z i n g process as something unfathomable, and warns of the dangers of plumbing i t too deeply. The n a r r a t o r knows t h a t her i l l u s i o n s are necessary i f she i s to r e t a i n her i d e n t i t y ; n e v e r t h e l e s s , 87 she i n v i t e s the reader to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the process of making the s t o r y by a d m i t t i n g a range of p o s s i b l e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , some of them c o n t r a d i c t i n g o t h e r s . Throughout "SOMETHING", n a r r a t o r s o f t e n behave l i k e magicians r e v e a l i n g t h e i r magic t r i c k s to the audience. Instead of a s i n g l e v e r s i o n of the t r u t h , they o f f e r a l t e r n a t i v e p l o t s , as i n " T e l l Me Yes or No", or l e t t e r s , as i n "The Spanish Lady". Coincidence f u r t h e r s t r a i n s the i l l u s i o n of r e a l i s m i n the t i t l e s t o r y , as does the c l e v e r t w i s t a t the end of "How I Met My Husband". Puz z l e d , t e n t a t i v e n a r r a t o r s who v o i c e t h e i r u n c e r t a i n t y by undermining t h e i r own n a r r a t i v e s are c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of SOMETHING, whereas an a u t h o r i t a t i v e n a r r a t o r i s f e l t to be i n c o n t r o l of LIVES. Although Del Jordan o c c a s i o n a l l y a l l u d e s to the d i f f i c u l t y of c a p t u r i n g i n f i c t i o n the t o t a l i t y of experience, she never allows her doubts to puncture the i l l u s i o n she i s c r e a t i n g . Edward Said's i n d i s p e n s a b l e a n a l y s i s of a u t h o r i t y i n f i c t i o n i s o l a t e s s p e c i a l c o n d i t i o n s upon which n a r r a t i v e f i c t i o n depends: one i s a sense of doubt f e l t by author, reader and e s p e c i a l l y the c h a r a c t e r s i n the work t h a t the a u t h o r i t y of a s i n g l e v o i c e or group of v o i c e s i s s u f f i c i e n t unto i t s e l f ; another i s a b e l i e f t h a t t r u t h can o n l y be approached i n d i r e c t l y , "by means of a mediation t h a t p a r a d o x i c a l l y , because of i t s f a l s e n e s s makes the t r u t h t r u e r " . ^ Although S a i d i s r e f e r r i n g to n o v e l s , h i s c o n c l u s i o n i s e q u a l l y t r u e of t h i s s h o r t s t o r y c y c l e . As he 88 p o i n t s out, "the p r i n c i p l e of a u t h o r i t y p r o v i d e s a motion always attempting to s t e e r c l e a r of o b s t a c l e s t h a t emerge to 7 i n h i b i t , maim or de s t r o y i t u t t e r l y . " The uneasy balance between a u t h o r i t y and m o l e s t a t i o n , to use Said's terms, engages the reader i n the process of d i s c o v e r y : "a t r u e r t r u t h i s one a r r i v e d a t by a process of e l i m i n a t i o n : Q a l t e r n a t i v e s s i m i l a r to t r u t h are shed one by one". The model of a l t e r n a t i v e s being shed as the s t o r y proceeds f i t s many s t o r i e s i n SOMETHING: the poison i n "Something I've Been Meaning to T e l l You" t h a t seems at f i r s t to be intended f o r A r t h u r , i s l a t e r suspected i n Char's death; Margaret, i n "The Spanish Lady", who seems to be the o u t s i d e r g r a c i o u s l y b e f r i e n d e d by the n a r r a t o r , emerges as the other woman, t h r e a t e n i n g to de s t r o y the n a r r a t o r ' s marriage. Since a l t e r n a t i v e s have been proposed and r e f u t e d , the c o n c l u s i o n more s t r o n g l y compels the reader's b e l i e f . In a d d i t i o n to the d e l i b e r a t e undermining of the n a r r a t o r ' s a u t h o r i t y , another s u c c e s s f u l i n n o v a t i o n i n SOMETHING i s the i m p l i e d l i s t e n e r to whom the f i r s t - p e r s o n n a r r a t i v e s are addressed. Munro has p r e v i o u s l y used the memoir form w i t h . g r e a t s k i l l , but i n SOMETHING she in t r o d u c e s a c o n f i d i n g v o i c e . In her a n a l y s i s of v o i c e i n Munro's f i r s t - p e r s o n f i c t i o n , M.G. Osachoff d i s t i n g u i s h e s three d i s t i n c t tones: memoir, c o n f e s s i o n and m e d i t a t i o n . A c c o r d i n g to Osachoff, the c o n f i d i n g v o i c e of the c o n f e s s i o n r e v e a l s the moral qualms of a n a r r a t o r over her past behaviour, while the c o n f i d i n g v o i c e of the me d i t a t i o n 89 r e v e a l s s i m i l a r qualms over making f i c t i o n out of a c t u a l people and i n c i d e n t s from her p a s t . 9 i n t h i s c o l l e c t i o n , Munro's r e a d i n e s s to explo r e more p a i n f u l a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l m a t e r i a l s marks her ma t u r i t y as a w r i t e r , and helps account f o r the v a r i e t y of v o i c e and g r e a t e r n a r r a t i v e s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s of the s t o r i e s i n SOMETHING. Munro h e r s e l f has expressed d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with " E x e c u t i o n e r s " , "Walking on Water" and "Something I've Been Meaning to T e l l You"; n e v e r t h e l e s s , she c o n s i d e r s them important steps i n her a r t i s t i c development: Then I wrote a s t o r y i n here t h a t I don't t h i n k works at a l l . I t ' s a very embarrassing s t o r y , I t h i n k , c a l l e d " E x e c u t i o n e r s , " where, again , I was t r y i n g to f i n d out how to do a c e r t a i n k i n d of t h i n g , and i t d i d n ' t q u i t e do i t . 1 0 Admittedly, Munro f a i l e d to s o l v e a l l the problems of the more complex form she decided to use; n e v e r t h e l e s s , she succeeds i n producing a medley of strong competing v o i c e s , the r e s u l t of c r e a t i v e energy escaping from the r i g i d conventions of r e a l i s m . No mere demonstrations of v i r t u o s i t y , Munro 1s experiments with form are aimed a t f i n d i n g new ways to t e l l s t o r i e s , based upon her i n s i g h t i n t o the d i f f e r e n c e s between h a b i t u a l ways of t h i n k i n g i n men and women. When the n a r r a t o r i n " M a t e r i a l " sees the s i m i l a r i t y between her f i r s t and second husbands, she a l s o i n t u i t i v e l y understands t h a t her view of the world i s d i f f e r e n t from t h e i r s because she i s a woman: 90 At the same time, a t di n n e r , l o o k i n g a t my husband G a b r i e l , I decided t h a t he and Hugo are not r e a l l y so u n a l i k e . Both of them have managed something. Both of them have decided what to do about e v e r y t h i n g they run across i n t h i s world, what a t t i t u d e to take, how to ignore or use t h i n g s . In t h e i r l i m i t e d and p r e c a r i o u s ways they both have a u t h o r i t y . They are not a t the  mercy. Or t h i n k they are not. (pp. 43-4) The male a b i l i t y to f i l t e r out aspects of experience t h a t do not accord with a pragmatic view of the world p a r a l l e l s the w r i t e r ' s a u t h o r i t y , or a b i l i t y to s e l e c t d e t a i l s t h a t develop a s t o r y , and r e j e c t those t h a t subvert i t . But Munro's female n a r r a t o r s c o n t i n u a l l y a f f i r m the r e a l i t y of d i s o r d e r and c o n t r a d i c t i o n as p a r t of l i f e . Although women can l e a r n the male approach, and, l i k e June i n "Memorial", attempt to master l i f e , the a l t e r n a t i v e of acknowledging and su b m i t t i n g to strong c h a o t i c passions l i k e l o v e , g r i e f and j e a l o u s y i s not n e c e s s a r i l y a weakness. Under s t r e s s , the women i n SOMETHING bend without b r e a k i n g , and so do the new n a r r a t i v e forms i n which Munro i n c o r p o r a t e s them. An admission of u n c e r t a i n t y by the n a r r a t o r i n t e l l i n g her s t o r y sometimes a i d s the communication p r o c e s s . At the end of "The Spanish Lady", when the n a r r a t o r witnesses the f i n a l c r y and death of an o l d man i n the r a i l w a y s t a t i o n , her own t r o u b l e s seem i n s i g n i f i c a n t : "What we say and f e e l no longer r i n g s t r u e , i t i s s l i g h t l y beside the p o i n t " (p. 190). Having r e g i s t e r e d the gap between emotional pain and the p a i n of a l i f e ending, the n a r r a t o r concludes on a puz z l e d note: "This i s a message; I r e a l l y b e l i e v e i t i s ; 91 but I don't see how I can d e l i v e r i t " (p. 191). Rather than attempting to analyse the e f f e c t of the s t r a n g e r ' s death upon her, the n a r r a t o r equates i t with a message t h a t she does not know how to send and communicates her s t a t e of mind by means of the analogy. P a r a d o x i c a l l y , by r e l i n q u i s h i n g a u t h o r i t y , she can b e t t e r achieve her purpose of persuading the reader to imagine her f e e l i n g s . One of the n a r r a t o r s who has r e l i n q u i s h e d a u t h o r i t y i n SOMETHING i s Dorothy, the e l d e r l y grandmother i n "Marakesh". While she was a teacher, Dorothy r e f u s e d to a l t e r her te a c h i n g method, but i n s i s t e d upon r e p e a t i n g what she had found s u c c e s s f u l i n the p a s t . Stubbornly, she continued to smoke c i g a r e t t e s d e s p i t e a p e t i t i o n u r g i n g her to stop. Once she had made up her mind on any s u b j e c t , she never a l t e r e d . Now t h a t she i s r e t i r e d , however, she r a r e l y looks back on her years i n the classroom, sloughs o f f her former r i g i d i t y , and becomes f a s c i n a t e d with change. Whereas her young granddaughter, J e a n e t t e , i s g r i e v e d to f i n d the elm t r e e s c u t down when she r e t u r n s f o r a v i s i t , Dorothy accepts the i n e v i t a b i l i t y of change. Although she s t i l l a p p r e c i a t e s beauty, she r e a l i z e s t h a t she no longer r e s e n t s the l o s s of beauty i n her surroundings as she once would have. I f the f a m i l i a r houses she sees from her window were t o r n down and r e p l a c e d by a shopping c e n t r e p a r k i n g l o t , she would not be unduly upset: Anything would do f o r her to look a t ; b e a u t i f u l or ugly had ceased to matter, because there was i n 92 e v e r y t h i n g something to be d i s c o v e r e d . T h i s was a f e e l i n g t h a t had come on her as she got o l d e r , and i t was not a t a l l a p e a c e f u l , l e t t i n g - g o s o r t of f e e l i n g , such as o l d people were supposed to get; i t was the very o p p o s i t e , p i n n i n g her where she was i n i r r i t a b l e , b a f f l e d c o n c e n t r a t i o n , (pp. 162-3) I t i s Dorothy's a t t e n t i o n to what i s happening i n the present moment t h a t d i s t i n g u i s h e s her from her s i s t e r , V i o l a , who more e f f e c t i v e l y i n s u l a t e s h e r s e l f a g a i n s t change, m a i n t a i n i n g t h a t , "pleasant thoughts keep you young" (p. 163). What V i o l a f a i l s to r e a l i z e i s t h a t the i l l u s i o n of youth may not be worth p r e s e r v i n g when i t s p r i c e i s the d e n i a l of e v e r y t h i n g p a i n f u l . Rather than keep l i f e a t a d i s t a n c e through f o r c e d c h e e r f u l n e s s , Dorothy i s prepared to accept the p a i n t h a t goes with a l l o w i n g l i f e to change her. Having r e l i n q u i s h e d power over younger people now t h a t she i s r e t i r e d , she has become more c u r i o u s about them, more i n t e r e s t e d i n l i s t e n i n g to them t a l k . During her granddaughter's v i s i t , she i m p u l s i v e l y i n v i t e s a neighbour whose wif e i s dying of cancer to come over f o r a d r i n k , thereby c a u s i n g a c h a i n of events t h a t need never have o c c u r r e d . L a t e r the same n i g h t , Dorothy f u r t h e r i n d u l g e s her c u r i o s i t y by going to the end of her garden to look i n t o B l a i r King's sunporch where he and her granddaughter Jeanette are making l o v e . Although the s i g h t d i s t u r b s Dorothy, causing her to tremble v i o l e n t l y and f e a r t h a t she i s on the verge of a s t r o k e , u l t i m a t e l y i t confirms her r e s p e c t f o r h e r s e l f : 93 What i f V i o l a had seen any of t h a t ? More than she c o u l d stand. Strength i s necessary, as w e l l as something l i k e g r a t i t u d e , i f you are going to t u r n i n t o a lady peeping Tom a t the end of your l i f e . (p. 174) Dorothy can admit to h e r s e l f t h a t she i s something of a voyeur. U n l i k e V i o l a , she i s committed to the process of d i s c o v e r y . Her s t r e n g t h i s i n her acceptance of her e n t i r e s e l f , i n c l u d i n g her lewd c u r i o s i t y . A s i m i l a r t o l e r a n c e f o r i m p e r f e c t i o n motivates Robina's speech to the n a r r a t o r near the end of " E x e c u t i o n e r s " : " I f you l e t one bad t h i n g l i k e t h i s bother you t h e r e ' s going to be a l o t of t r o u b l e f o r you i n t h i s world" (p. 153). The bad t h i n g may r e f e r to the l o s s of l i f e i n the f i r e , or the blow Robina gave the c h i l d f o r mentioning Jimmy and Duval, Robina's b r o t h e r s , as though i m p l i c a t i n g them i n the f i r e . Instead of ending with the n a r r a t o r wiser than she was a t the b e g i n n i n g , " E x e c u t i o n e r s " ends with the n a r r a t o r unable to d i s t i n g u i s h between c o n f l i c t i n g memories of what happened. The mystery of the f i r e cannot be s o l v e d ; i t can on l y pass out of l i v i n g memory: When everybody i s dead who c o u l d have remembered i t , then I suppose the f i r e w i l l be f i n i s h e d with, i t w i l l be j u s t as i f nobody had ever run through t h a t door. (p. 155) Even though the n a r r a t o r d e c l a r e s t h a t the f i r e can be o b l i t e r a t e d by the end of the l i f e t i m e s of i t s witnesses, the c o n t e x t of her statement w i t h i n a w r i t t e n n a r r a t i v e 94 widens the c i r c l e to i n c l u d e a l l i t s r e a d e r s . As w e l l as new i m p l i c a t i o n s of n a r r a t i v e , Munro d i s c o v e r s i n SOMETHING new p o s s i b i l i t i e s a t the l e v e l of the i n d i v i d u a l word. Del Jordan would pause to r e l i s h a word's sound i n LIVES; the n a r r a t o r s of SOMETHING are more apt to pause over the connotations of words. Struck by the e v o c a t i v e power of a p a r t i c u l a r word to r e c a l l a p e r i o d i n t h e i r l i v e s , they i n t e r r u p t t h e i r r e c o l l e c t i o n s to comment d i r e c t l y on c o n n o t a t i o n . The n a r r a t o r of " T e l l me Yes or No" r e c a l l s the years when she was a young mother by the a d j e c t i v e "mature": A word we o f t e n used was "mature." We would meet somebody we had known a few years ago and we would r e p o r t t h a t t h i s person had g r e a t l y matured, (p. 107) The e f f e c t of s i n g l i n g out the word i s i r o n i c . By s t a t i n g t h a t "mature" was used o f t e n , the n a r r a t o r i m p l i e s t h a t her former n o t i o n s about m a t u r i t y were f a s h i o n a b l e nonsense. Elsewhere, i r o n i c e f f e c t i s doubled by i s o l a t i n g two words f o r purposes of comparison, as i n " E x e c u t i o n e r s " , when the n a r r a t o r compares the words " a l c o h o l i c " and "drunk": A l c o h o l i c was not a word spoken i n our house; I don't b e l i e v e i t was spoken much anywhere, a t t h a t time. Drunk was the word used, but t h a t was i n the town. (p. 139) From these comments on word c h o i c e , the reader i s l e d to i n f e r not o n l y the f a t h e r ' s weakness, but a l s o the secrecy of h i s d r i n k i n g . As a c h i l d , the n a r r a t o r had o n l y a hazy 95 understanding of the f a m i l y s i t u a t i o n . She r e c a l l s her e f f o r t s to r e c o n c i l e her mother's v e r s i o n of her f a t h e r as a wronged man, with the taunts she heard about him a t s c h o o l . In SOMETHING Munro r e j e c t s d i r e c t statements and chooses r a t h e r to al l o w the reader to make i n f e r e n c e s . Recently she has commented unfavourably on her e a r l i e r penchant f o r summing up i n the co n c l u d i n g paragraphs of her s t o r i e s : And now, I would go back, i f I c o u l d r e w r i t e most of those s t o r i e s , and I would chop out a l o t of those words and f i n a l sentences. And I would j u s t l e t each s t o r y stand without b o t h e r i n g to do the summing up, because t h a t ' s r e a l l y what i t amounts t o . H Munro's i n c r e a s i n g s u b t l e t y i s a l o g i c a l p r o g r e s s i o n of her n a r r a t i v e technique which has always made use of metaphor as w e l l as d i s c u r s i v e reasoning to convey meaning. Munro understood e a r l y i n her a r t i s t i c c a r e e r t h a t metaphorical t h i n k i n g i s n a t u r a l to the mind. Her f i c t i o n a l p o r t r a y a l s of dreams suggest t h a t she has a r r i v e d i n t u i t i v e l y a t the same c o n c l u s i o n s as Suzanne Langer advances i n her study of reason, r i t u a l , and a r t : Metaphor i s the law of growth of every semantic. I t i s not a development, but a p r i n c i p l e . T h i s i s s t r i k i n g l y a t t e s t e d by the f a c t t h a t the lowest, completely u n i n t e n t i o n a l products of the human b r a i n are madly metaphorical f a n t a s i e s , t h a t o f t e n make no l i t e r a l sense whatever; I mean the r i o t o u s symbolism of dreams. 1 2 Munro uses dreams to augment or modify the waking thoughts of her c h a r a c t e r s . Think of Mr. Lougheed i n "Walking on 96 Water", p i e c i n g together fragments of dream and memory of the long-ago n i g h t when h i s f a t h e r helped search f o r a demented youth a f t e r the d i s c o v e r y of the boy's murdered parents on a neigh b o r i n g farm. C l e a r l y the r e c u r r i n g dream i s r e l a t e d to the o l d man's uneasiness over h i s young f r i e n d Eugene's mental s t a t e : These were the f a c t s . The dream, as f a r as he co u l d t e l l , c o n t ained but d i d not r e v e a l them. Awake he had a l l t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n about the murder, double murder, i n h i s memory, though he c o u l d not t h i n k when or how i t was given to him. In the dream he never understood c l e a r l y what a l l the urgency and commotion were about, he knew onl y t h a t he had to f i n d h i s boots and hurry out with h i s f a t h e r and bro t h e r ( i f he h u r r i e d , i n the dream, he would not be l e f t b e h i n d ) . (p. 82) Suggesting danger, the need to hurry to prevent some unnamed d i s a s t e r , the dream p r o v i d e s o b l i q u e commentary on the s t o r y of Eugene. I t i s an a l t e r n a t i v e to the k i n d of d i r e c t statement Et makes about her own thoughts a f t e r Char's death, when she r e c a l l s how she l i e d to Char about B l a i k i e Noble: The q u e s t i o n o f t e n c r o s s e d E t ' s mind i n l a t e r y e a r s — w h a t d i d she mean to do about t h i s s t o r y when B l a i k i e got back? For she had no reason to b e l i e v e he would not come back. The answer was t h a t she had not made any plans a t a l l . (p. 21) Having E t review her thoughts i s no l e s s h e l p f u l than having Mr. Lougheed review h i s dream. Munro's readers would probably not w i l l i n g l y forego any of her techniques f o r communicating her c h a r a c t e r s ' mental l i v e s . Although she 9 7 uses them l e s s f r e q u e n t l y i n her l a t e r work, Munro's " h e s i t a n t summaries", as Sam S o l e c k i c a l l s them, lead the reader d i r e c t l y to t r u t h s d i s c o v e r e d i n the course of the 1 3 s t o r y . Through these summaries, Munro has t r a i n e d her audience i n the way to read her s t o r i e s . No doubt she c o u l d now e x c i s e these h e l p f u l e x p l a n a t o r y paragraphs today and s t i l l be understood, but they have a d d i t i o n a l value as pauses i n the a c t i o n which a l l o w the n a r r a t o r time to r e f l e c t . Such moments make each s t o r y not merely a sequence of events but a v e h i c l e f o r e x p r e s s i n g "the f e l t q u a l i t y of Ik an i n d i v i d u a l response to l i f e " . T h i s bonding of reader and p r o t a g o n i s t , which i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of a Munro s h o r t s t o r y , takes p l a c e because the n a r r a t o r , although r e l a t i n g memories from the past, does not s t a r t out understanding these memories any b e t t e r than does the reader. The process of the s t o r y , then, i s one of d i s c o v e r y , as the much quoted f i n a l paragraph of the f i n a l s t o r y makes c l e a r : The problem, the o n l y problem, i s my mother. And she i s the one of course t h a t I am t r y i n g to get; i t i s to reach her t h a t t h i s whole journey has been undertaken. With what purpose? To mark her o f f , to d e s c r i b e , to i l l u m i n e , to c e l e b r a t e , to get r i d , of her; and i t d i d not work, f o r she looms too c l o s e , j u s t as she always d i d . She i s heavy as always, she weighs e v e r y t h i n g down, and y e t she i s i n d i s t i n c t , her edges melt and flow. Which means she has stuck to me as c l o s e as ever and r e f u s e d to f a l l away, and I c o u l d go on, and on, a p p l y i n g what s k i l l s I have, u s i n g what t r i c k s I know, and i t would always be the same. (p. 246) By t a k i n g the reader i n t o her c o n f i d e n c e to a g r e a t e r extent 98 than b e f o r e , and c o n f e s s i n g her sense of having f a i l e d to understand her p a s t , the n a r r a t o r has h i t on a way of reminding the reader of h i s own f e e l i n g of inadequacy when c o n f r o n t i n g h i s memories. The i n s i g h t s of SOMETHING are more complex than those of the e a r l i e r works; they cannot be f u l l y d e l i n e a t e d i n language. By a d m i t t i n g t h i s , Munro's s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n a r r a t o r s bear witness to the e x i s t e n c e of the i n e f f a b l e . As Ian Reid notes i n h i s study of the s h o r t s t o r y , some s t o r i e s l i n g e r i n the mind because the reader i s l e f t u n c e r t a i n about the p r e c i s e nature and extent of the r e v e l a t i o n or peak of awareness a c h a r a c t e r has a p p a r e n t l y experienced. In a d d i t i o n , Reid speaks of the e f f e c t i v e n e s s of an incomplete denouement i n which, at the end, the c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r " i s s t i l l s t r u g g l i n g with the knot of her f e e l i n g s , and so i s the reader".^^ Such i n c o n c l u s i v e endings r i n g t r u e i n an age when the c e r t a i n t i e s of e a r l i e r s h o r t s t o r i e s appear o v e r l y c o n t r i v e d : U n t i l 1950 or so, the s t o r y i n Canada appeared to be machine-made, with two-dimensional c h a r a c t e r s s o l v i n g a r t i f i c i a l dilemmas . . . . Soon the s t o r y was not one t o l d by a c a r e f u l l y engineered p l o t , but by the s u b t l e i m p l i c a t i o n of s e l e c t e d i s o l a t e d i n c i d e n t s . Arrangement began to p l a y a g r e a t e r p a r t , and s i g n i f i c a n c e l a y i n what appeared, at the o u t s e t , to be c a s u a l e p i s o d i c moments, 1° In Munro 1s work c e r t a i n l y , arrangement i s c r u c i a l , not o n l y f o r the r e a d e r ' s , but a l s o f o r the n a r r a t o r ' s understanding. The n a r r a t o r r e s h u f f l e s her memories i n an attempt to sharpen her p e r c e p t i o n . In "The Ottawa V a l l e y " , 99 the d e c l a r e d goal i s to r e k i n d l e the image of the dead mother, but her image continues to elude the n a r r a t o r , who f i n a l l y r e a l i z e s t h a t a r t , l i k e memory, cannot r e c a p t u r e the past e x a c t l y as i t was. The mother's l i k e n e s s w i l l change over time because i t i s c o n t i n u a l l y being m o d i f i e d by the a r t i s t ' s e x p e r i e n c e s . N e i t h e r memory nor a r t , can a r r i v e a t a f i n a l p e r c e p t i o n . Since the n a r r a t o r d i s c o v e r s t h a t her s t o r y , l i k e her memories, can be r e v i s e d e n d l e s s l y , the reader i s drawn back to the beg i n n i n g . P r e c i s e l y t h i s d i s c o v e r y of the c y c l i n g q u a l i t y of memory i s the l i k e l i e s t answer to the r i d d l e posed by the t i t l e of the c o l l e c t i o n , SOMETHING I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU. Time, which appears l i n e a r i n a n o v e l , appears c i r c u l a r i n Munro's s h o r t s t o r i e s . In the course of SOMETHING, her n a r r a t o r s a c q u i r e a heightened consciousness of themselves as sta n d i n g a t a p o i n t on the circumference of a c i r c l e which they e n d l e s s l y r e t r a c e i n t h e i r memories, and t h e i r d i s c o v e r y becomes a p r e s u p p o s i t i o n shared by the n a r r a t o r s of WHO and MOONS. In Munro's l a t e r f i c t i o n , p o s s e s s i o n of t h i s i n s i g h t i s what separates the women from the g i r l s . 100 Notes 1 A l i c e Munro, SOMETHING I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1974). A l l subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 2 J.R. (Tim) S t r u t h e r s , "The Real M a t e r i a l : An Interview with A l i c e Munro," i n PROBABLE FICTIONS: ALICE MUNRO'S NARRATIVE ACTS, ed. Louis K. MacKendrick (Downsview, Ont.: ECW P r e s s , 1983), p. 28. 3 A l i c e Munro, quoted i n an i n t e r v i e w with Alan Twigg, "What I s : A l i c e Munro," i n FOR OPENERS: CONVERSATIONS WITH 24 CANADIAN WRITERS (Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour, 1981), p. 16. 4 S t r u t h e r s , p. 15. 5 John Keats, l e t t e r to George and Tom Keats, December 21-27, 1817, L e t t e r 45, THE LETTERS OF JOHN KEATS 1814-1821, ed. Hyder Edward R o l l i n s (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. P r e s s , 1958), I, p. 193. 6 Edward S a i d , BEGINNINGS: INTENTION AND METHOD (New York: B a s i c Books, 1975), p. 90. 7 S a i d , p. 95. 8 S a i d , p. 90. 9 Margaret G a i l Osachoff, " ' T r e a c h e r i e s of the Heart': Memoir, C o n f e s s i o n , and M e d i t a t i o n i n the S t o r i e s of A l i c e Munro," i n PROBABLE FICTIONS, ed. Louis K. MacKendrick (Downsview, Ont.: ECW P r e s s , 1983), p. 64. 10 S t r u t h e r s , p. 27. 11 S t r u t h e r s , p. 15. 12 Suzanne K. Langer, PHILOSOPHY IN A NEW KEY: A STUDY IN THE SYMBOLISM OF REASON, RITE AND ART (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. P r e s s , 1969), p. 147. 13 Sam S o l e c k i , " L i v e s of G i r l s and Women," rev . of THE MOONS OF JUPITER, by A l i c e Munro, CANADIAN FORUM, 62, No. 101 722 (1982), 25. 14 S o l e c k i , p. 25. 15 Ian Reid, THE SHORT STORY (London: Methuen, 1977), p. 58. * i i v 16 Donald Stephens, "The Short Story i n E n g l i s h , " CANADIAN LITERATURE, No. 41 (1969), p. 126. 102 Chapter Four The Temptation to T e l l F l o t e l l i n g a s t o r y — a n d t h i s was not the onl y one, or even the most l u r i d one she knew—would i n c l i n e her head and l e t her face go s o f t and t h o u g h t f u l , t a n t a l i z i n g , warning. "I shouldn't even be t e l l i n g you t h i s s t u f f . " 1 The i r r e s i s t a b l e appeal of s t o r i e s to both t e l l e r and l i s t e n e r i s the premise of WHO. Whereas s t o r y t e l l i n g i s an a c t i v i t y o f t e n r e p o r t e d i n Munro's f i c t i o n , and an o r g a n i z i n g p r i n c i p l e of LIVES, the p r o t a g o n i s t of WHO i s obsessed with s t o r y t e l l i n g , u s i n g i t not onl y to re c a p t u r e the past but a l s o to e x o r c i s e i t . Moreover, the g o t h i c and grotesque elements f a m i l i a r i n s t o r i e s embedded i n Munro 1s previous works become more pronounced. WHO' i s Munro's dar k e s t v i s i o n of human nature; a c c o r d i n g l y , the s t o r i e s i t c o n t a i n s are f a b l e s which i l l u s t r a t e the d e p r a v i t y of which people are capable, as w e l l as the t i t i l l a t i n g e f f e c t of shocking s t o r i e s which provide c o u n t e r p o i n t to r e s t r i c t e d l i v e s . In the form of g o s s i p or reminiscence, s t o r y t e l l i n g i s the main indulgence of a r u r a l O n t a r i o housewife i n the days bef o r e t e l e v i s i o n s e t s . As apotheosis of t h i s group, F l o , the former h i r e d g i r l and w a i t r e s s , now married to Rose's widowed f a t h e r and running a small grocery s t o r e , e n t e r t a i n s h e r s e l f and her audience w i t h s a l a c i o u s s t o r i e s about her 103 customers. Her usual l i s t e n e r , Rose, her young stepdaughter, i s the p r o t a g o n i s t of WHO, a g i r l who grows up to be a s t o r y t e l l e r i n her t u r n , and e v e n t u a l l y becomes an a c t r e s s , a type of p r o f e s s i o n a l s t o r y t e l l e r . W i t h i n the community, F l o has l i t t l e s o c i a l or economic p r e s t i g e , but, w i t h i n the f a m i l y , F l o enjoys c o n s i d e r a b l e power over her husband, son, and stepdaughter. At the h e i g h t of F l o ' s i n f l u e n c e while Rose i s a c h i l d , F l o i s the s t o r y t e l l e r and Rose the l i s t e n e r ; however, a f t e r Rose c r o s s e s the b r i d g e from West Hanratty to attend h i g h school i n H a n r a t t y — a n obvious step up the s o c i a l l a d d e r — s h e g r a d u a l l y usurps F l o ' s p l a c e as s t o r y t e l l e r : "Now Rose was the one b r i n g i n g s t o r i e s home, F l o was the one who knew the names of the c h a r a c t e r s and was w a i t i n g to hear" (p. 40). Confined by her d u t i e s i n the s t o r e and the care of an i n v a l i d husband, F l o looks forward to t a l e s of the n o t o r i o u s student group at the high s c h o o l , centred around a boy named Horse N i c h o l s o n , and known to F l o as "those j o k e r s . " As w e l l as being an index of t h e i r r e l a t i v e power, s t o r y t e l l i n g i s a bond between F l o and Rose, a shared a c t i v i t y i n which they s e t a s i d e t h e i r mutual antagonism. As Rose's a d u l t l i f e d i v e r g e s from F l o ' s , and her e d u c a t i o n , marriage, and c a r e e r separate her p h y s i c a l l y , i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , and s o c i a l l y from her stepmother, s t o r i e s about mutual acquaintances become t h e i r l a s t common ground: "When Rose was home on a v i s i t c o n v e r s a t i o n was d i f f i c u l t , 104 so she would ask F l o about the people she saw a t the Legion"(p.201). F l o ' s i n c r e a s i n g b i t t e r n e s s and b e l l i g e r a n c e , which mar Rose's i n f r e q u e n t v i s i t s , can be circumvented by encouraging F l o to t e l l s t o r i e s , j u s t as she d i d b e f o r e Rose went to s c h o o l . In those days, they enjoyed a long t r u c e , and Rose has happy memories of the time when her b r o t h e r was s t i l l a baby i n h i s c a r r i a g e , F l o was t e l l i n g s t o r i e s from her hig h s t o o l behind the counter, and Rose h e r s e l f was on the f l o o r with her brown paper and crayons. Although s t o r y t e l l i n g occurs f r e q u e n t l y throughout Munro's f i c t i o n , WHO i s u n u s u a l l y preoccupied with i t s dangerous r e s u l t s . By d w e l l i n g i n her s t o r i e s on s u b j e c t s such as murder and i n c e s t , F l o i n s t i l l s i n Rose a d i s t o r t e d view of human nature t h a t accentuates i t s p o t e n t i a l f o r v i o l e n c e and d e p r a v i t y . Primed to expect l i f e to be f i l l e d w ith unpleasant s u r p r i s e s , Rose experiences i t i n accordance with F l o ' s accounts, as a b a t t l e g r o u n d where e x p l o i t e r s and v i c t i m s engage i n p e r p e t u a l c o n f l i c t . F l o , as g u i l t y s t o r y t e l l e r who, a g a i n s t her b e t t e r judgement, t e l l s u n s u i t a b l e t a l e s to a c h i l d , becomes the paradigm f o r Rose, who f e e l s g u i l t y f o r having betrayed her past by t u r n i n g i t i n t o s t o r i e s t o shock her m i d d l e - c l a s s i n t e l l e c t u a l f r i e n d s . On one o c c a s i o n , Rose begins r e a d i n g aloud a l e t t e r i n which F l o denounces her f o r appearing b a r e - b r e a s t e d i n a t e l e v i s i o n p r o d u c t i o n of THE TROJAN WOMEN: 105 Halfway through, she had to stop r e a d i n g . I t wasn't t h a t she thought how shabby i t was to be exposing and making fun of F l o t h i s way. She had done i t o f t e n enough be f o r e ; i t was no news to her t h a t i t was shabby. What stopped her was, i n f a c t , t h a t g u l f ; she had a f r e s h and overwhelming r e a l i z a t i o n of i t , and i t was nothing to laugh about, (p. 186) Since F l o r e p r e s e n t s the past which Rose has r e p u d i a t e d , Rose cannot manage to see her as a comic f i g u r e . Rose's escape from F l o ' s i n f l u e n c e has been too p a i n f u l to a l l o w her to take F l o l i g h t l y . Whether or not she has escaped F l o i s a moot p o i n t . At b e s t , Rose's t i e s to the group i n which she now moves are tenuous, as shown by her eagerness to i n g r a t i a t e h e r s e l f . An o u t s i d e r f o r as long as she can remember, she has never had a secure p o s i t i o n i n s o c i e t y : "Rose thought of her own f a m i l y as s t r a d d l i n g the r i v e r , b e l o n g i n g nowhere, but t h a t was not t r u e " (p. 4). As a c h i l d , she had f e l t s u p e r i o r to her environment; a f t e r l e a v i n g i t , she f e e l s i n f e r i o r . By t e l l i n g s o r d i d s t o r i e s about her pa s t , she seems to humble h e r s e l f , but, p a r a d o x i c a l l y , she e x a l t s h e r s e l f i n the eyes of these m i d d l e - c l a s s l i b e r a l s who envy her the experience of po v e r t y : Rose knew a l o t of people who wished-they had been poor and hadn't been. So she c o u l d queen i t over them, o f f e r i n g v a r i o u s scandals and b i t s of squ a l o r from her c h i l d h o o d , (p. 23) Unable to r e s i s t the temptation to shock her f r i e n d s , Rose r a t i o n a l i z e s her s t o r y t e l l i n g on the grounds t h a t she i s 106 t e l l i n g t r u e s t o r i e s which explode romantic myths of poverty perpetuated i n l i t e r a t u r e and f i l m . In a d i s p a r a g i n g r e f e r e n c e to "The Garden P a r t y " , Rose complains, "Katherine M a n s f i e l d was never o b l i g e d to look a t s t a i n e d underwear; her r e l a t i v e s might be c r u e l and f r i v o l o u s but t h e i r accents would be agreeable" (p. 48). U n l i k e Katherine M a n s f i e l d , Rose has d i r e c t experience of poverty; she understands t h a t i t s s a l i e n t f e a t u r e i s u g l i n e s s , as e x e m p l i f i e d by s t a i n e d underwear and harsh v o i c e s . These d e t a i l s are o f t e n omitted i n l i t e r a t u r e , which transforms a g i r l l i k e Franny M c G i l l u n t i l she i s u n r e c o g n i z a b l e : L a t e r on Rose would t h i n k of Franny when she came upon the f i g u r e of an i d i o t i c , s a i n t l y whore i n a book or a movie. Men who made books and movies seemed to have a fondness f o r t h i s f i g u r e , though Rose n o t i c e d they would c l e a n her up. They cheated, she thought, when they l e f t out the b r e a t h i n g and the s p i t and the t e e t h : they were r e f u s i n g to take i n t o account the a p h r o d i s i a c p r i c k l e s of d i s g u s t , i n t h e i r hurry to reward themselves with the n o t i o n of a s o o t h i n g blankness, u n d i f f e r e n t i a t e d welcome, (p. 26) Although Lawrence Mathews reads the passage as an a t t a c k on Robertson D a v i e s 1 FIFTH BUSINESS, i t s i m p l i c a t i o n s go beyond any one novel to i n d i c t w r i t e r s f o r s e n t i m e n t a l i z i n g t h e i r 2 c h a r a c t e r s . Concern f o r t r u t h - t e l l i n g i s nothing new i n A l i c e Munro's f i c t i o n ; however, the i n s i s t e n c e on the r i g h t of the dark s i d e to equal or g r e a t e r time than the b r i g h t s i d e i s more pronounced i n WHO than elsewhere i n the canon. WHO i s r u t h l e s s l y a n t i - r o m a n t i c , e s p e c i a l l y i n d e p i c t i n g 107 p o v e r t y . Rose has scant p a t i e n c e with J o c e l y n ' s n o t i o n t h a t her husband, C l i f f o r d , has been damaged by poverty and deserves s p e c i a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n as a r e s u l t : seemed to Rose something more complex and more o r d i n a r y ; j u s t the weariness, suppleness, deviousness, meanness, common to a c l a s s . Common to C l i f f o r d ' s c l a s s , and Rose's. J o c e l y n had been i n s u l a t e d i n some ways, l e f t s t e r n and innocent, (p. I l l ) Poverty has a co a r s e n i n g e f f e c t on those who experience i t , r e n d e r i n g them l e s s v u l n e r a b l e to p s y c h i c p a i n than are p r o t e c t e d m i d d l e - c l a s s c h i l d r e n . J o c e l y n i d e a l i z e s C l i f f o r d , p r o j e c t i n g her own f i c t i o n upon the a c t u a l man much as P a t r i c k i d e a l i z e s Rose, p r o j e c t i n g upon her h i s f i c t i o n of the Pre - R a p h a e l i t e Beggar Maid. The romantic r o l e s of k n i g h t - r e s c u e r and l a d y - v i c t i m are s e d u c t i v e enough to overcome Rose's i n s t i n c t i v e r e s i s t a n c e to P a t r i c k ' s view of her. Once Rose marries P a t r i c k , she d i s c o v e r s the h a t e f u l r e s t r i c t i o n s t h a t P a t r i c k ' s seemingly benign f i c t i o n impose upon her. Rose i s unable to s u s t a i n her r o l e as P a t r i c k ' s d a m s e l - i n - d i s t r e s s . Even as a c h i l d , she possessed a p e r s o n a l i t y which c o n t r a d i c t s the sweetly submissive s t e r e o t y p e . Instead, her nature "was growing l i k e a p r i c k l y p i n a p p l e , but sl o w l y , and s e c r e t l y , hard p r i d e and s k e p t i c i s m o v e r l a p p i n g . . . " (p. 5). She i s not sweet and y i e l d i n g , but, l i k e the pi n e a p p l e , has a tough s e l f - p r o t e c t i v e r i n d . The f i e r c e r e s i s t a n c e she musters a g a i n s t her stepmother r e a s s e r t s i t s e l f a g a i n s t her husband What J o c e l y n c a l l e d b i t t e r n e s s 108 as he attempts to dominate her. In c o n t r a s t to the bare f e e t which r e v e a l the Beggar Maid's s t a t u s i n the Burne-Jones p a i n t i n g to which P a t r i c k i n d i r e c t l y r e f e r s , Rose's emblem f o r her own o r i g i n s i s the 3 outhouse behind her f i r s t s c h o o l . Rather than v i s i t the dark and f r i g h t e n i n g G i r l s ' T o i l e t where "Many people, i t seemed, d e c l i n e d to use the h o l e " (p. 23), Rose waits u n t i l she can get home, r i s k i n g wet pants and F l o ' s s c o r n . She dares not c o n f i d e i n F l o f o r f e a r t h a t her stepmother w i l l c a l l unwanted a t t e n t i o n to her by a r r i v i n g a t the s c h o o l , "with a p a i l and s h o v e l , c l e a n i n g up, and lambasting everyone i n t o the b a r g a i n " (p. 24). Rose 's d e t e r m i n a t i o n to conceal the s i t u a t i o n i n the G i r l s ' T o i l e t from F l o i s important because i t draws a t t e n t i o n to the way i n which s e c r e t s which cannot be r e v e a l e d g a i n power by being suppressed. The extent to which p r e v i o u s l y concealed aspects of Rose's c h i l d h o o d dominate t h i s n a r r a t i v e suggests t h e i r g r e a t i n f l u e n c e upon her as she grows up. Keeping s e c r e t her f e a r of the school outhouse, "She was b u i l d i n g up the f i r s t s t o r e of t h i n g s she c o u l d never t e l l " (p. 24). The l i n k between t o i l e t s and t e l l i n g forged here holds throughout the work. Tim S t r u t h e r s has noted the prevalence of t o i l e t s and excrement i n WHO. In a d d i t i o n to l i n k i n g Rose to F l o and to Franny M c G i l l , who has been raped i n the school outhouse by her b r o t h e r , the t o i l e t image r e l a t e s to Mr. Burns who i s glimpsed i n h i s outhouse, and to Cora, on whom Rose develops a s c h o o l g i r l c r u sh, i n t h a t her 109 g r a n d f a t h e r i s known as the honey-dumper. S t r u t h e r s i n t e r p r e t s the t o i l e t as an image i n which Munro expresses the changes i n Hanratty, when, i n the l a s t t hree paragraphs of " P r i v i l e g e " , progress i s d i s c u s s e d i n terms of the disappearance of outhouses and i n t r o d u c t i o n of indoor plumbing. But t h i s e x p l a n a t i o n alone s c a r c e l y accounts f o r the numerous s c a t o l o g i c a l r e f e r e n c e s i n WHO. They p o i n t a l s o to a change i n A l i c e Munro's n o t i o n of what belongs i n n a r r a t i v e , c o n t r a d i c t i n g the o p i n i o n expressed by Ada Jordan i n LIVES: Next day they w i l l be t e l l i n g about how they go to the t o i l e t , why do they leave t h a t out? There i s n ' t any of t h a t i n S i l a s Marner. There i s n ' t any i n the c l a s s i c w r i t e r s . They were good w r i t e r s , they d i d n ' t need i t . " 5 Ada b e l i e v e s t h a t n e i t h e r sex scenes nor bathroom scenes belong i n l i t e r a t u r e , but WHO i n s i s t s the o p p o s i t e , t h a t p r i v a t e p h y s i c a l a c t s are v i t a l to l i t e r a t u r e i f i t i s to r e f l e c t l i f e a c c u r a t e l y . When F l o has the indoor t o i l e t i n s t a l l e d , the n a r r a t o r r e f l e c t s on i t l e s s as a symbol of change than a symbol of l o s t p r i v a c y : They were a l l f a m i l i a r with each o t h e r ' s nether v o i c e s , not o n l y i n t h e i r more e x p l o s i v e moments but i n t h e i r i n t i m a t e s i g h s and growls and p l e a s and statements. And they were a l l most p r u d i s h people. So no one ever seemed to hear, or be l i s t e n i n g and no r e f e r e n c e was made. The person c r e a t i n g the n o i s e s i n the bathroom was not connected w i t h the person who walked out. (p. 4) The phrase, nether v o i c e s , d i r e c t l y a s s o c i a t e s the image 110 w i t h n a r r a t i v e . In a p a r a l l e l passage, Rose overhears her f a t h e r t a l k i n g to h i m s e l f i n h i s workshop: From the shed came not o n l y coughing, but speech, a c o n t i n u a l muttering, r e p r o a c h f u l or encouraging, u s u a l l y j u s t below the l e v e l a t which separate words c o u l d be made out . . . . Now and then some words would break through and hang c l e a r and n o n s e n s i c a l on the a i r . When he r e a l i z e d they were out, there would be a quick b i t of cover-up coughing, a swallowing, an a l e r t unusual s i l e n c e . . . . The person who spoke these words and the person who spoke to her as her f a t h e r were not the same, though they seemed to occupy the same space. I t would be the worst p o s s i b l e t a s t e to acknowledge the person who was supposed to be there . . . (pp. 3-4) Words are important here not as communication but as u t t e r a n c e , perhaps u n i n t e l l i g i b l e to a l i s t e n e r , but meaningful to the speaker h i m s e l f , and a r i s i n g from the depths of h i s being. Through these i n v o l u n t a r y words, an i n d i v i d u a l expresses what he i s , and h i s need to do so i s a powerful compulsion. The n a r r a t o r of WHO f e e l s a compulsion too, a d r i v e to confess which i s as s t r o n g as t h a t of C o l e r i d g e ' s a n c i e n t mariner. Once these hidden memories are unstoppered, they pour out one a f t e r another, as hard to stop as Franny M c G i l l ' s unwelcome o v e r t u r e s to Rose i n the s c h o o l y a r d : "Go  away, Franny. Go away or I ' l l punch you. I_ w i l l . I_ r e a l l y  w i l 1 " (p. 26). D i f f i c u l t as Franny i s to suppress, F l o i s worse. Her name suggests i t s homophone, flow; her t a l k i s a flow which cannot be staunched. She has no decent r e t i c e n c e : "she was the s o r t of woman who w i l l make p u b l i c I l l what she f i n d s i n the laundry bag" (p. 24). Throughout her c h i l d h o o d , Rose hates F l o f o r t e l l i n g e v e r y t h i n g , e s p e c i a l l y f o r the s a d i s t i c p l e a s u r e F l o takes i n d e s t r o y i n g Rose's i l l u s i o n s . Yet she i s f a s c i n a t e d too by the s t o r i e s F l o t e l l s her. The i m p l i e d c o m p l i c i t y between t e l l e r and l i s t e n e r p a r a l l e l s the c o m p l i c i t y between Rose's f a t h e r and Rose d u r i n g the b e a t i n g s , or between Rose and P a t r i c k d u r i n g t h e i r v i o l e n t m a r i t a l q u a r r e l s . In WHO, speech as the bond between people i s thoroughly e x p l o r e d : the f a s c i n a t i o n with words observed i n Munro's f i c t i o n takes a d i f f e r e n t form i n the strange case of the o l d woman Rose encounters i n the County Home who no longer speaks but w i l l o b e d i e n t l y s p e l l words i f she i s given them: " I s n ' t she a wonder," the nurse s a i d . "She can't see and t h a t ' s the o n l y way we can t e l l she can hear. L i k e i f you say, 'Here's your d i n n e r , ' she won't pay any a t t e n t i o n to i t , but she might s t a r t s p e l l i n g d i n n e r . " (p. 183) When the nurse suggests t h a t Rose supply a word to be s p e l l e d , the o l d woman o b l i g e s with the c o r r e c t s p e l l i n g of " c e l e b r a t e " , a word which r e c a l l s Hagar's i n s i g h t near the end of Margaret Laurence's THE STONE ANGEL: "I must always, always have wanted t h a t — s i m p l y to r e j o i c e . " 0 Endorsing t h i s sentiment, WHO re c o g n i z e s words as the means of r e j o i c i n g i n the human c o n d i t i o n i n a l l i t s a s p e c t s . WHO simu l a t a n e o u s l y acknowledges the squalor of Rose's background and r e j o i c e s i n i t s r i c h n e s s as experience: 112 She knew she would never f l o u r i s h , never get to any very secure p o s i t i o n — i f indeed there was such a t h i n g — i n the world of s c h o o l . But she was not m i s e r a b l e , except i n the matter of not being able to go to the t o i l e t . L e arning to s u r v i v e , no matter with what cravenness and c a u t i o n , what shocks and f o r e b o d i n g s , i s not the same as being m i s e r a b l e . I t i s too i n t e r e s t i n g , (p. 27) L e a r n i n g to s u r v i v e i n the harsh world of her youth, Rose develops e a r l y the technique of adapting, which i s c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to a c t i n g , her d e s t i n e d c a r e e r . In new p l a c e s , she has a h a b i t of walking the s t r e e t s i n the evening, l o o k i n g i n the l i g h t e d windows of houses and imagining h e r s e l f i n s i d e as the hostess or a guest. She can p i c t u r e h e r s e l f e q u a l l y w e l l i n l a v i s h or modest houses: "Rose i s an a c t r e s s ; she can f i t i n anywhere" (p. 152). U n f o r t u n a t e l y f o r Rose, her usual a t t i t u d e to her a c t i n g i s more ambivalent than t h i s suggests. Obsessed by the f a i l u r e of i m i t a t i o n to i l l u m i n e the t r u t h s of experience, she i s o f t e n overcome by a sense of shame: The t h i n g she was ashamed o f , i n a c t i n g , was t h a t she might have been paying a t t e n t i o n t o the wrong t h i n g s , r e p o r t i n g a n t i c s , when there was always something f u r t h e r , a tone, a depth, a l i g h t , t h a t she c o u l d n ' t get and wouldn't get. And i t wasn't j u s t about a c t i n g t h a t she suspected t h i s . E v e r y t h i n g she had done c o u l d sometimes be seen as a mistake, (p. 205) These thoughts occur to Rose i n the context of her f i n a l meeting with Ralph G i l l e s p i e i n the Hanratty Legion H a l l . Ralph i s almost Rose's a l t e r ego i n WHO. L i k e her he i s an a c t o r by i n s t i n c t . Famous f o r h i s i m i t a t i o n of a l o c a l 113 c h a r a c t e r whose name, M i l t o n Homer, i s a reminder of the low esteem i n which Hanratty holds poets, Ralph i s someone she has been acquainted with s i n c e t h e i r school days, when he occupied a desk ahead of h e r s . Even then, Rose f e l t an a f f i n i t y f o r him: Both of them l o s t or m i s l a i d or never adequately provided themselves with a l l the p e n c i l s , r u l e r s , e r a s e r s , pen n i b s , r u l e d paper, graph paper, the compass, d i v i d e r s , p r o t a c t o r , necessary f o r a s u c c e s s f u l school l i f e ; both of them were sloppy with i n k , s u b j e c t to s p i l l i n g and b l o t t i n g mishaps; both of them were n e g l i g e n t about doing homework but panicky about not having done i t . (p. 199) As shy as they were i m p r a c t i c a l , they c o u l d not manage a c o n v e r s a t i o n , but communicated on another l e v e l : That wasn't q u i t e a l l . T h e i r shoes and boots became w e l l acquainted, s c u f f l i n g and pushing i n f r i e n d l y and p r i v a t e encounter, sometimes r e s t i n g together a moment i n t e n t a t i v e encouragement; t h e i r mutual kindness p a r t i c u l a r l y helped them through those moments when people were being s e l e c t e d to do mathematics problems on the blackboard, (p. 199) Ralph's nearness^comforted Rose then, and continues to comfort her when he comes to s i t beside her a t the Legion. L i k e her, he hides behind a j o k i n g manner. In t h e i r schooldays when Ralph shook snow out of h i s h a i r onto her desk, she was charmed; she a p p r e c i a t e s h i s o b l i q u e approach because i t so c l o s e l y resembles her own. As she r e a l i z e s i n the c o n c l u d i n g sentence of WHO, Ralph's l i f e c o u l d n e a r l y have been h e r s : "What co u l d she say about h e r s e l f and Ralph 114 G i l l e s p i e , except t h a t she f e l t h i s l i f e , c l o s e , c l o s e r than the l i v e s of the men she'd loved, one s l o t over from her own?" (p 206). She escaped from Hanratty whereas Ralph r e t u r n e d home a f t e r the war. Had she stayed, her l i f e would have been a v e r s i o n of h i s . Renouncing t h a t l i f e f o r h e r s e l f , she i s n e v e r t h e l e s s drawn to men l i k e Ralph. Simon, with whom she l a t e r f a l l s i n l o v e , has many of Ralph's a p p e a l i n g q u a l i t i e s , i n c l u d i n g the a b i l i t y to amuse her by h i s a c t i n g . J u s t as Ralph would "do" M i l t o n Homer, Simon e n t e r t a i n s Rose by p l a y i n g v a r i o u s p a r t s : She a l r e a d y knew a few of h i s c h a r a c t e r s . T h i s was The Humble Workman. Some others were The Old P h i l o s o p h e r . . . and, where a p p r o p r i a t e , The Mad S a t y r , n u z z l i n g and l e a p i n g , making triumphant sucking n o i s e s a g a i n s t her n a v e l . (P. 161) Rose dreads the l o s s of independence which accompanies f a l l i n g i n l o v e . A p l a y f u l l o v e r who mimics love seems to a l l o w her to p l a y a l o v e r ' s r o l e too, f r e e of the demand a humourless man l i k e P a t r i c k makes t h a t she match her f e e l i n g s to h i s . T h i s s t r o n g dramatic element i n e r o t i c love i s suggested by F l o ' s euphemism f o r the sex a c t : That was F l o ' s word f o r i t : perform. Back i n the country, back on the h i l l farms she came from, F l o s a i d t h a t people had gone d o t t y , been known to eat b o i l e d hay, and performed with t h e i r too c l o s e r e l a t i o n s , (p. 25) As u s u a l , F l o ' s s t o r i e s are warnings f o r Rose. They imply t h a t there i s something r i d i c u l o u s i n s e x u a l i t y . The i d e a 115 of performance i m p l i e s the p o s s i b i l i t y of w i t h h o l d i n g o n e s e l f from a r i t u a l which i s acted out. At the same time, F l o ' s h a r p i n g on perverse s e x u a l i t y i s s u g g e s t i v e i n l i g h t o f the d e s t r u c t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p Rose and P a t r i c k develop. To P a t r i c k ' s attempts to dominate and possess her, she responds with overwhelming rage, b e a t i n g her head a g a i n s t the bedpost, throwing a gravy-boat through the d i n i n g room window, even s l a s h i n g her w r i s t s or r u s h i n g out i n t o the garden and t e a r i n g a t the g r a s s . T h e i r marriage r e p e a t s the unhealthy c y c l e of q u a r r e l i n g and r e c o n c i l i a t i o n , " u n t i l enough damage had been done, u n t i l n e a r l y mortal damage had been done"(p.95). The scenes of v i o l e n c e t a i n t the atmosphere of WHO, and make i t the most d i s t u r b i n g of Munro's works. Although v i o l e n c e has always been present i n her f i c t i o n , i n WHO i t moves from the p e r i p h e r y to the c e n t r e . Whereas Del Jordan has a neighbour who i s suspected of b e a t i n g her c h i l d , Rose h e r s e l f i s the beaten c h i l d . Her r e c o l l e c t i o n of the experience i m p l i c a t e s her i n the b e a t i n g s , not o n l y as v i c t i m , but as i n s t i g a t o r , who c o u r t s v i o l e n c e out of a perverse need to r i t u a l i z e her anger a g a i n s t her stepmother. Blood i s an i n s i s t e n t motif i n Rose's f a n t a s i e s . As she p i c t u r e s the scene suggested by the phrase, "Royal B e a t i n g " , blood i s the f i n a l necessary d e t a i l : "Someone k n e l t and the blood came l e a p i n g out l i k e banners" ( p . l ) . Blood as emblem of human pain i s repeated i n F l o ' s s t o r y of her severe nosebleed which erupts i n the h o s p i t a l when she v i s i t s the 116 woman f o r whom she used to work as h i r e d g i r l . In another of F l o ' s s t o r i e s , Becky Tyde's f a t h e r i s beaten u n t i l "the snow he was l y i n g i n turned r e d " (p. 8), and a f t e r h i s a s s a i l a n t s f i n a l l y l e a v e, Becky i s s t i l l watching from the window: "She watched the men leave a t l a s t and her f a t h e r make h i s delayed bloody progress through the snow and up the steps of the verandah" (p. 8). The blood which flows from the beatings i n these s t o r i e s i s not r e l e a s e d when Rose's f a t h e r a c t u a l l y beats her: He has never managed to r e a l l y i n j u r e her, though there are times, of course, when she prays t h a t he w i l l . He h i t s her with an open hand, there i s some r e s t r a i n t i n h i s k i c k s , (p. 17) P a r a d o x i c a l l y , her f a t h e r ' s f a i l u r e to lo s e a l l c o n t r o l and d e l i v e r the u l t i m a t e b e a t i n g perpetuates the c y c l e of r e b e l l i o n and punishment. The degree of Rose's own r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the v i o l e n c e she provokes a g a i n s t h e r s e l f i s c e n t r a l to WHO. The t i t l e , WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? comes from a q u e s t i o n asked Rose by a teacher c r i t i c a l of her f o r d a r i n g to c o n s i d e r h e r s e l f s u p e r i o r to o t h e r s . Although the qu e s t i o n a l s o suggests Rose's quest f o r i d e n t i t y , her p r i d e i s the main i s s u e . H a b i t u a l l y s e l f - c r i t i c a l , Rose wonders whether her own stubborn p r i d e l e d to the b e a t i n g s . She b e l i e v e s her f a t h e r was trapped i n t o v i o l e n c e when she and F l o pushed him too f a r : "there comes a time when you can't draw back"(p. 16). L a t e r , 117 r e f l e c t i n g upon her v i o l e n t f i g h t s with P a t r i c k , she sees them as symptoms of i l l n e s s , and r e c a l l s how they would ask each o t h e r , "What do you t h i n k t r i g g e r s the r e a c t i o n ? " (p. 95) Blood and v i o l e n c e are not mere background d e t a i l i n WHO, but are p a r t of an image p a t t e r n suggested by P a t r i c k when he f i r s t f a l l s i n love with Rose: "You don't know how I love you. There's a book I have c a l l e d THE WHITE GODDESS. Every time I look a t the t i t l e i t reminds me of you" (p. 78). Whereas P a t r i c k r e f e r s to the connotations of p u r i t y and s p i r i t u a l i t y suggested by the t i t l e of t h i s work by Robert Graves, Graves' a n a l y s i s of the White Goddess r e v e a l s her as more perverse and c o n t r a d i c t o r y — h e n c e more l i k e R o s e — t h a n P a t r i c k guesses. According t o Graves, she i s the muse of poetry, and by i n v o k i n g her the t r u e poet may ac h i e v e , "the experience of mixed e x a l t a t i o n and h o r r o r t h a t 7 her presence e x c i t e s " . White i s the f i r s t of her c o l o u r s , symbolized by the new moon; however, her second c o l o u r i s of s p e c i a l s i g n i f i c a n c e f o r the p r o t a g o n i s t of WHO: When Suidas the Byzantine records t h a t Io was a cow t h a t changed her c o l o u r from white to rose and then to b l a c k , he means t h a t the New Moon i s the white goddess of b i r t h and growth; the F u l l Moon, the red goddess of love and b a t t l e ; the Old Moon, the bl a c k goddess of death and d i v i n a t i o n " (p. 69). In WHO, the p r o t a g o n i s t ' s name comes from the c o l o u r , r o s e , suggesting the red of the second goddess of Graves's t r i u m v i r a t e and the c o l o u r of blood; moreover, the Rose 118 Goddess i s the d e i t y of love and sexual warfare. To summon her i s to invoke what Graves c a l l s , "the a n c i e n t power of f r i g h t and l u s t — t h e female s p i d e r , or the queen-bee whose embrace i s death" (p. 24) . Graves blames h i s century's emphasis on marriage, a s t a t e i n i m i c a l to the goddess, f o r the d e c l i n e of p o e t r y : The White Goddess i s a n t i - d o m e s t i c ; she i s the p e r p e t u a l "other woman" and her p a r t i s d i f f i c u l t indeed f o r a woman of s e n s i b i l i t y to p l a y f o r more than a few years . . . (p. 447) Th i s d e s c r i p t i o n f i t s Rose so e x a c t l y i t r e q u i r e s no comment except to note t h a t Graves' argument, d e s p i t e i t s i m p l i c i t a d m i r a t i o n f o r the female p r i n c i p l e , the goddess as muse, never admits the p o s s i b i l i t y of a female poet. In WHO, however, Rose assumes the r o l e s of a r t i s t and goddess; t h e r e f o r e the sexual l i a s o n between male poet and female muse presupposed i n THE WHITE GODDESS becomes f u r t h e r c o m p l i c a t e d . In t h i s c o n t e x t , the scene when Rose allows C l i f f o r d to make love to her along with J o c e l y n suggests Rose's d e s p e r a t i o n , the lengths to which she w i l l go i n a doomed attempt to s a t i s f y her dual nature: "Rose f e l t c u r i o u s , d i s b e l i e v i n g , h a r d l y w i l l i n g , s l i g h t l y aroused and, at some l e v e l she was too s l u g g i s h to reach f o r , a p p a l l e d and sad" (p. 132). The a f t e r t a s t e of g u i l t and d i s g u s t d r i v e s Rose from C l i f f o r d and J o c e l y n ' s house e a r l y the next morning. Since t h e i r lovemaking i s a r i t u a l acknowledgement of Rose's love f o r them both, Rose might have taken comfort 119 from i t , but i n s t e a d she b e l i e v e s t h a t they have t r i v i a l i z e d the p a s t , and v i n d i c a t e d C l i f f o r d ' s r e j e c t i o n of her years b e f o r e when he decided a g a i n s t consummating t h e i r love a f f a i r : "What we're doing. I t ' s not some b i g necessary t h i n g . I t ' s o r d i n a r y m i s c h i e f " ( p . 122). Once again , events seem to be f o r c i n g Rose to acknowledge t h a t she i s a s o l i t a r y whose connections with other people never l a s t . In an i n t e r v i e w with Alan Twigg, A l i c e Munro c o r r o b o r a t e s t h i s view: Twigg: My w i f e ' s comment on WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? was t h a t your c h a r a c t e r , Rose, i s never allowed to get anything. She's always u n f u l f i l l e d . May be she's j u s t wary of emotion. Munro: She gets something. She gets h e r s e l f . She doesn't get the obvious t h i n g s , the t h i n g s she t h i n k s she wants. L i k e i n " M i s c h i e f , " Rose doesn't r e a l l y want t h a t love a f f a i r . What she does get i s a way out of her marriage. She gets a knowledge of h e r s e l f . 8 Despite the author's c o n t e n t i o n t h a t Rose does not emerge empty-handed, t h i s v i s i o n of a woman i n her prime as l o v e r and d e s t r o y e r i s somewhat ble a k . D i s c u s s i n g Canadian l i t e r a r y themes i n r e l a t i o n to Graves' t h e s i s i n THE WHITE GODDESS, Margaret Atwood remarks on "the notable absence of 9 Venuses" (Rose Goddesses) i n the l i t e r a t u r e . P u b l i c a t i o n of WHO f o l l o w e d Atwood's SURVIVAL, and f i l l e d the gap Atwood d i s t i n g u i s h e d between Diana-Maidens and Hecate-Crones. Rose s u f f e r s i n a way t h a t the e a r l i e r and younger p r o t a g o n i s t , Del Jordan, does not. Perhaps Del's sense of her a r t i s t i c d e s t i n y enables her to detach h e r s e l f from her 120 e x p e r i e n c e s , r e g a r d i n g them as m a t e r i a l f o r f u t u r e f i c t i o n . Although Rose a l s o has a r t i s t i c ambitions, they are i l l - d e f i n e d and embarrass her by r e v e a l i n g a shameful need to a t t r a c t a t t e n t i o n : "She wanted to perform i n p u b l i c " (p. 69). Incapable of d e c i d i n g her f u t u r e , Rose d r i f t s i n a s t a t e of i n e r t i a , dreaming of p l a y i n g the harp or becoming a f o r e i g n correspondent. When Dr. Henshawe r e p e a t e d l y t e l l s her she i s a s c h o l a r , Rose f e e l s uneasy because she has no c l e a r sense of who she i s . Although Rose's i n t e l l e c t u a l g i f t s have won her a s c h o l a r s h i i p , she i s more a t the mercy of her f e e l i n g s than D e l . Her r e l a t i o n s h i p with P a t r i c k makes her h y s t e r i c a l a t times, and culminates before t h e i r d i v o r c e i n impulses to murder and s u i c i d e . The anger P a t r i c k rouses i n Rose i s a f u l l e r development of the f u r y sensed i n c h a r a c t e r s l i k e L o i s i n DANCE, who lashes out a g a i n s t the l i m i t a t i o n s of her c l a s s . H y s t e r i a c o n t a i n s a dramatic element which accords with Rose's c h o i c e of a c t i n g as her p r o f e s s i o n , and makes i t b e l i e v a b l e t h a t she would d i s c o v e r i t almost a c c i d e n t a l l y . A c t i n g s u i t s Rose's dramatic temperment j u s t as Del's w r i t i n g s u i t s her a u t h o r i t y , her a i r of being i n c o n t r o l of h e r s e l f and her l i f e , detached from the g u i l t and remorse which Rose s u f f e r s . Both a r t i s t - h e r o i n e s are engaged i n s i m i l a r searches f o r a r t i s t i c t r u t h , but Del has not y e t been f o r c e d to acknowledge her own m e d i o c r i t y as Rose has: It'was p a r t of her job to go on l o c a l t e l e v i s i o n c h a t t i n g about these p r o d u c t i o n s , t r y i n g 121 to drum up i n t e r e s t , t e l l i n g amusing s t o r i e s about t h i n g s t h a t had happened d u r i n g the t o u r . There was nothing shameful about any of t h i s , but sometimes Rose was deeply, unaccountably ashamed, (p. 177) Rose's shame d e r i v e s from u n r e c o n c i l e d inner c o n f l i c t between F l o ' s standards and those of the a r t i s t i c group i n which she now moves. The reader's sense t h a t Rose i s enmeshed i n the s t o r y — w h e r e a s Del i s detached from i t — i s p a r t l y a t t r i b u t a b l e to the d i f f e r e n c e between p o i n t of view i n the two works. As A.A. Mendilow p o i n t s out i n h i s study of time i n the n o v e l , the f i r s t - p e r s o n n a r r a t i v e ' s e f f e c t on the reader i s c o n t r a r y to e x p e c t a t i o n s . Instead of a l l o w i n g the reader to i d e n t i f y with the p r o t a g o n i s t , "Another person i s f e l t to be i n t e r p o s e d between the I of the novel and the reader's I . " Mendilow a l s o notes how f i r s t - p e r s o n n a r r a t i o n i m p l i e s t h a t events have a l r e a d y taken p l a c e . LIVES, f o r example, i s t o l d i n the f i r s t person by Del Jordan, a p p a r e n t l y reviewing her past h i s t o r y , Moreover, the kunstlerroman form, i n which the n a r r a t o r i s a young w r i t e r , i m p l i e s t h a t the s u f f e r i n g of the past has been purged i n the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of experience i n t o a r t . By c o n t r a s t , the t h i r d - p e r s o n n a r r a t i o n of WHO b r i n g s the focus c l o s e r to the events d e s c r i b e d , and s a c r i f i c e s the n a r r a t o r ' s c o n t r o l over the t a l e . In a 1983 i n t e r v i e w , Tim S t r u t h e r s comments on h i s impression t h a t there are s e v e r a l n a r r a t o r s : Rose h e r s e l f at ten or t h i r t y - t w o , and a n a r r a t o r 122 who "adopts a s u p e r i o r i r o n i c tone towards Rose". S t r u t h e r s sees t h i s as an i n c o n s i s t e n c y of n a r r a t i v e p o i n t of view r e s u l t i n g from the r e v i s i o n s Munro made to WHO, but the author e m p h a t i c a l l y denies t h i s : No, I don't t h i n k so. No, I don't t h i n k so. I don't t h i n k t h a t has anything to do with, i t . There may w e l l be an u n c e r t a i n t y , a problem t h a t I had, but I don't t h i n k t h a t hasty r e w r i t e i s the reason. I t h i n k there were j u s t times when I f e l t t h a t the s t o r y had to work t h a t way, and I r e a l l y can't t e l l you why. 1 1 Munro's r e p l y to S t r u t h e r s r e f l e c t s her commitment to her a r t i s t i c p r o c e s s , i n which she d i s c o v e r s the form of the work as i t progresses and w i l l a l l o w her d i s c o v e r i e s to change her mind about what belongs i n i t . WHO was o r i g i n a l l y intended as a two-part s t r u c t u r e w i t h one p a r t i n the f i r s t person devoted to Janet, and the other i n the t h i r d person devoted to Rose, who was Janet's f i c t i o n a l c r e a t i o n . I t was not u n t i l the work had been p r i n t e d i n g a l l e y s t h a t Munro b e l a t e d l y r e a l i z e d t h a t the form, a c o m p l i c a t i o n of the form she had used i n LIVES and with a s i m i l a r e p i l o g u e , was not the most s u i t a b l e one. At her own expense, she made the changes she co n s i d e r e d necessary. L.M. L e i t c h has compared a reviewer's copy (the f i r s t v e r s i o n ) with the f i n a l v e r s i o n . According to L e i t c h , i n the f i r s t v e r s i o n WHO had a two-part s t r u c t u r e , and cont a i n e d three s t o r i e s t h a t Munro e x c i s e d and l a t e r i n c l u d e d i n MOONS. The s t o r i e s which she removed are "The Moons of J u p i t e r " , "Connection", and "The Stone i n the 123 1 2 , F i e l d " . L e i t c h a l s o t r a c e s a l t e r a t i o n s Munro made i n i n d i v i d u a l s t o r i e s a f t e r t h e i r f i r s t p u b l i c a t i o n i n magazines to prepare them f o r i n c l u s i o n i n WHO. She notes t h a t the o r i g i n a l v e r s i o n of "Half a G r a p e f r u i t " has no r e f e r e n c e s to Rose as c h r o n i c l e r , and "Wild Swans" i n i t s f i r s t p u b l i s h e d v e r s i o n does not c o n t a i n F l o ' s s t o r y of the undertaker who r e g u l a r l y buys c a n d y ? ^ L e i t c h ' s work supports the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of WHO as d e l i b e r a t e l y s e l f - r e f l e x i v e by showing how the author's r e v i s i o n s made-s t o r y t e l l i n g more prominent. These r e v i s i o n s f u r t h e r suggest t h a t the r e f e r e n c e to the WHITE GODDESS, the name, Rose, and the motif of blood are l i n k e d not onl y to the themes of love and v i o l e n c e and the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s w i t h i n Rose's c h a r a c t e r , but a l s o t o the s t r u c t u r e of WHO, which i s not imposed by the author (the masculine paradigm) but d i s c o v e r e d by her (the feminine paradigm). S i m i l a r l y , the b l u r r i n g of n a r r a t i v e viewpoint, which Munro was unable to e x p l a i n to S t r u t h e r s , but c o n s i d e r s necessary i n t h i s work, i s an accomodation she f e l t compelled to make, not one which she d e l i b e r a t e l y chose. Whatever i t s source, i t a p t l y r e f l e c t s Rose's concern over the extent to which l i f e f o r her i s a s e r i e s of r o l e s which she p l a y s . Rose i s a t once the " I " and the "she", the s e l f and the c h a r a c t e r . As b e f i t s an a c t r e s s , she i s always on stage to the extent t h a t she i s aware of c r e a t i n g an impression, of t e l l i n g s t o r i e s to engage the a t t e n t i o n of an audience, be i t p r i v a t e or p u b l i c . In the f i n a l paragraph of the 124 c o n c l u d i n g segment, Rose masters the temptation to t e l l the s t o r y of Ralph G i l l e s p i e : "Rose d i d n ' t t e l l t h i s to anybody, g l a d t h a t there was one t h i n g a t l e a s t she wouldn't s p o i l by t e l l i n g , though she knew i t was lac k of m a t e r i a l as much as honorable r e s t r a i n t t h a t kept her q u i e t " (p. 206) . Her r e n u n c i a t i o n of a r t i f a c e r e c a l l s Prospero's e p i l o g u e i n THE TEMPEST: Now my charms are a l l o'erthrown And what s t r e n g t h I have's mine own,— Which i s most f a i n t : (V. Ep. 1-3) THE TEMPEST, i t w i l l be r e c a l l e d , i s the p l a y from which i n the opening segment, "Royal B e a t i n g s " , Rose overhears her f a t h e r r e c i t i n g as he works i n h i s shed: "The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous p a l a c e s " (p. 4). The c i r c l e i s complete, encompassing suppressed memories demanding to be t o l d and a Rose Goddess who i s a l s o a female a r t i s t s e a r c h i n g f o r the muse w i t h i n h e r s e l f . Through embedded s t o r i e s t o l d or h i n t e d a t i n the t e x t , Munro extends her reach f u r t h e r below the s u r f a c e i d e n t i t y t h a t i n d i v i d u a l s c o n s t r u c t f o r themselves, showing how, a g a i n s t t h e i r w i l l , they a c t out or r e t e l l the p a t t e r n s of myth. 125 Notes 1 A l i c e Munro, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (Toronto: Macmillan, 1978), p. 7. Subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 2 Lawrence Mathews, "Who Do You Think You Are?: A l i c e Munro's A r t of Disarrangement," i n PROBABLE FICTIONS, ed. Lo u i s K. MacKendrick (Downsview, Ont: ECW Press, 1983), p. 181. 3 A Lys B a l d r y , BURNE-JONES: MASTERPIECES IN COLOUR (London: T.C. & E.C.Jack, n.d.), p. 50. 4 J.R. (Tim) S t r u t h e r s , " I n t e r s e c t i n g O r b i t s : A Study of S e l e c t e d Story C y c l e s by Hugh Hood, C l a r k B l a i s e and A l i c e Munro, i n t h e i r L i t e r a r y Contexts," D i s s . Western O n t a r i o 1981, p. 222. 5 A l i c e Munro, LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1971), pp. 171-2. 6 Margaret Laurence, THE STONE ANGEL (Toronto: M c C l e l l a n d and Stewart, 1964), p. 292. 7 Robert Graves, THE WHITE GODDESS (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), p. 14. Subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 8 Alan Twigg, "What I s : A l i c e Munro," i n CONVERSATIONS WITH 24 CANADIAN WRITERS (Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour P u b l i s h i n g , 1981), p. 19. 9 Margaret Atwood, SURVIVAL: A THEMATIC GUIDE TO CANADIAN LITERATURE (Toronto: Anansi, 1972), p. 199. 10 A.A. Mendilow, TIME AND THE NOVEL (New York: Humanities Pr e s s , 1972), p. 107. 11 J.R. (Tim) S t r u t h e r s , "The Real M a t e r i a l : An Interview with A l i c e Munro," i n PROBABLE FICTIONS, ed. Lo u i s K. MacKendrick (Downsview, Ont.: ECW Press, 1983), p. 32. 12 Lind a Margaret L e i t c h , " A l i c e Munro's F i c t i o n : E x p l o r a t i o n s i n Open Forms," M.A. Th e s i s Guelph 1980, p. 150. 13 L e i t c h , pp. 113, 130. Chapter F i v e L i f e as a Re c u r r i n g Story MOONS i s A l i c e Munro 1s most bookish work. Many of i t s c h a r a c t e r s are engaged i n aspects of the book t r a d e , working as w r i t e r s , e d i t o r s , a r c h i v i s t s , l i b r a r i a n s or b o o k s e l l e r s . Despite t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n a l a s s o c i a t i o n with books, they f e e l the same s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s about being readers and dreamers i n a workaday world as Del Jordan f e l t i n LIVES. The female n a r r a t o r s i n MOONS o f t e n i n s t i n c t i v e l y p r e f e r men who are t h e i r i n t e l l e c t u a l i n f e r i o r s , but should they f a l l i n love with men who share t h e i r love of books, f r e q u e n t l y f i n d these men s e l f i s h , f a i t h l e s s or p r i g g i s h . On the whole, however, the e d u c a t i o n a l l e v e l has r i s e n s i n c e the previous g e n e r a t i o n , when a year a t Teacher's C o l l e g e made Ada Jordan an i n t e l l e c t u a l , and t h e r e f o r e a m i s f i t , i n J u b i l e e . In MOONS, Ada's g e n e r a t i o n has grown o l d , represented now by a woman l i k e Mrs. Kidd, c o n f i n e d t o a n u r s i n g home where meals are the hig h p o i n t s of the day, and pastimes l i k e Scrabble have r e p l a c e d her former i n t e r e s t i n n a t u r a l h i s t o r y . Although Mrs. Kidd has f o r g o t t e n much t h a t she once knew, she s t i l l r e t a i n s the poetry she r e c i t e d as a s c h o o l g i r l , and c l i n g s to i t as a t a l i s m a n : She wanted t o f l o a t h e r s e l f c l e a r . Sometimes she c o u l d do i t by l y i n g on her bed and saying i n her head a l l the poems she knew, or the f a c t s , which got harder and harder to hold i n p l a c e . (p. 175) 127 The remembrance of poems and f a c t s r e a s s u r e s Mrs. Kidd t h a t d e s p i t e the gradual l o s s of her powers as she grows o l d e r , something of her e s s e n t i a l s e l f s t i l l remains. T h i s need f o r reassurance helps e x p l a i n Munro's h a b i t of having c h a r a c t e r s quote the poems they r e c a l l from t h e i r schooldays, a technique she has used i n each c o l l e c t i o n . Not o n l y does the embedded q u o t a t i o n r e l a t e to theme and c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n , but i t i s p a r t of the quoting c h a r a c t e r ' s d e f i n i t i o n of h i m s e l f . The poems he knows by h e a r t he possesses l i k e eyes of a c e r t a i n shade or the a b i l i t y to c a r r y a tune. Even more s e l f - d e f i n i t i v e are the u b i q u i t o u s f a m i l y s t o r i e s , anecdotes from the past which Munro's c h a r a c t e r s t e l l one another. Cousin I r i s i n "Connection" i s an extreme example of the urge to t e l l one's s t o r y to an a v a i l a b l e , though u n w i l l i n g , audience: We drank; we ate; the c h i l d r e n came i n and were p r a i s e d . Richard came and went. Nothing fazed her; she was r i g h t . Nothing d e f l e c t e d her from her s t o r i e s of h e r s e l f ; the amount of time she c o u l d spend not t a l k i n g was l i m i t e d . She t o l d about the c a r p e t bag and the m i l l i o n a i r e ' s son a l l over a g a i n . She t o l d about the d i s s o l u t e a c t o r . How many c o n v e r s a t i o n s she must have r i d d e n through l i k e t h i s — l a u g h i n g , i n s i s t i n g , rambling, r e c o l l e c t i n g , (p. 16) Cousin I r i s ' s s t o r i e s b e t r a y her longing f o r a p p r o v a l , her d e t e r m i n a t i o n to e s t a b l i s h a connection with other people. In MOONS there are many g a r r u l o u s c h a r a c t e r s l i k e her, but 128 they are balanced by t h e i r o p p o s i t e s , c h a r a c t e r s who mutely accept r e s t r i c t e d l i v e s unredeemed by a flow of t a l k to g i v e them meaning. Descended from t a l k e r s on her mother's s i d e and n o n - t a l k e r s on her f a t h e r ' s , the n a r r a t o r of "Chaddleys and Flemings" i s the prototype of the n a r r a t o r s i n MOONS: her h e r i t a g e s have not blended to make her a moderate t a l k e r , but they have remained separate, causing her to a l t e r n a t e l y r e v e a l and c o n c e a l , and making her uneasy no matter which o p t i o n she chooses. The s i l e n t Flemings are even more i n f l u e n t i a l than the loquacious Chaddleys because speechlessness i m p l i e s a c r i t i c i s m of t a l k as a f r i v o l o u s escape from work, and so c a s t s doubt on the whole n a r r a t i v e e n t e r p r i s e . Her f a t h e r ' s aunts f a s c i n a t e the n a r r a t o r of "The Stone i n the F i e l d " because t h e i r way of l i f e i s e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t from the one she knows: Work would be what f i l l e d t h e i r l i v e s , not c o n v e r s a t i o n ; work would be what gave t h e i r days s h a p e . . . . What was f e l t i n t h a t room was the p a i n of human c o n t a c t , (pp. 26-7) There i s something s p l e n d i d about the aunts' i s o l a t i o n . Although the n a r r a t o r ' s mother p i t i e s them, the n a r r a t o r suspects t h a t they possess s t r e n g t h s unknown to t a l k a t i v e people: My mother looked a t t h e i r l i v e s and thought of how they c o u l d be b r i g h t e n e d , opened up. . . . Why not? my mother would ask, seeing l i f e a l l i n terms of change and p o s s i b i l i t y . She 129 imagined they would yearn f o r t h i n g s , not o n l y m a t e r i a l t h i n g s but c o n d i t i o n s , a b i l i t i e s , which they d i d not even bother to d e p l o r e , d i d not t h i n k to r e j e c t , being so p e r f e c t l y encased i n what they had and were, so f a r beyond imagining themselves otherwise, (p. 29) The aunts seem to have achieved a r a r e contentment i n t h e i r r o u t i n e of never-ending work. Despite i t s l i m i t a t i o n s , t h e i r way of l i f e has enabled them to reach a l e v e l of acceptance and endurance i m p o s s i b l e f o r more ambitious people l i k e the n a r r a t o r to reach. In a d d i t i o n to the r o l e of language i n d e v e l o p i n g s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s , the p a r t i t p l a y s i n e s t a b l i s h i n g human r e l a t i o n s h i p s i s shown to be c r u c i a l . In MOONS, Munro not on l y uses her c h a r a c t e r i s t i c pauses to c o n s i d e r the sound or c o n n o t a t i o n s of words, but a l s o she t e s t s the minimum language requirements f o r communication to take p l a c e and r e l a t i o n s h i p s to be e s t a b l i s h e d . In "The Stone i n the F i e l d " , t a l k i n g to the aunts i s d i f f i c u l t because they do not exchange s t o r i e s as f a m i l y members u s u a l l y do. Owing to t h e i r p a r a l y s i n g shyness, they can s c a r c e l y b r i n g themselves to answer q u e s t i o n s . Instead t h e i r b r other manages to communicate with them i n a s i m p l i f i e d way which somewhat resembles Mrs. Cross's attempts to communicate with Jack, a s t r o k e v i c t i m who has l o s t the power to speak. L i k e Jack, they o f t e n r e p l y by means of a g i g g l e r a t h e r than a word. In another s t o r y , "The Turkey Season", the r o l e of s p e c i a l languages a t work i s e x p l o r e d . The h i g h s c h o o l - g i r l n a r r a t o r , a s t r a n g e r to the working world, must l e a r n i t s 130 v o c a b u l a r y and idioms i n order to perform her job as a turkey g u t t e r and f i t i n t o t h i s new s o c i e t y where her co-workers t e l e g r a p h messages concerning sex through phrases whose s p e c i a l meanings a r i s e from t h e i r c ontext: L i l y s a i d she never l e t her husband come near her i f he had been d r i n k i n g . M a r j o r i e s a i d s i n c e the time she n e a r l y d i e d with a hemorrhage she never l e t her husband come near her, p e r i o d . . . . I c o u l d see t h a t i t was a matter of p r i d e not to l e t your husband come near you, but I c o u l d n ' t q u i t e b e l i e v e t h a t "come near" meant "have sex." (p. 68, emphasis added) As an o u t s i d e r a t the Turkey Barn, the n a r r a t o r i s a Jamesian innocent abroad, r e g i s t e r i n g f r e s h impressions i n a f o r e i g n m i l i e u and s t r a i n i n g to understand a f o r e i g n language. In t h i s volume, Munro's approach to language i s more c o n s c i o u s l y a n a l y t i c a l than b e f o r e . Language i t s e l f has become her s u b j e c t as w e l l as her v e h i c l e of e x p r e s s i o n . Moreover, Munro's c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n , which has always r e l i e d on c l o s e o b s e r v a t i o n of the p a r t i c u l a r to r e v e a l the d i f f e r e n c e s between people, has become more g e n e r a l i z e d , concerned with s i m i l a r i t i e s r a t h e r than d i f f e r e n c e s , e s p e c i a l l y among women c h a r a c t e r s . In her e a r l i e r work, she tended to use symbols w a r i l y , r e l u c t a n t to s t r e t c h her metaphors beyond the s i n g l e s t o r y , and so compromise the i n d i v i d u a l i t y of her c h a r a c t e r s and t h e i r s i t u a t i o n s . Munro has denied being a w r i t e r of ideas o f t e n enough t h a t her c r i t i c s have tended to take her a t her word; however, MOONS i s the f i r s t of her works to be 131 s t r u c t u r e d by a coherent p s y c h o l o g i c a l argument t h a t u n i f i e s i t around the metaphor of J u p i t e r ' s moons. Repeatedly, these s t o r i e s r e l a t e women's behaviour to the i r r e s i s t a b l e f o r c e of t h e i r a t t r a c t i o n toward the men they l o v e . L i k e the moons, they t r a v e l i n f i x e d o r b i t s beyond t h e i r own c o n t r o l . T h i s i r o n i c message i s repeated with s u b t l e t y , and o f t e n a wry humour, i n n a r r a t i v e s l a y e r e d with r e f e r e n c e s to unwri t t e n and w r i t t e n s t o r i e s which f u r t h e r e l a b o r a t e i t . The growing s e l f - r e f l e x i v e n e s s of Munro's f i c t i o n a l r e a d y d i s c u s s e d i n the two previous chapters culminates i n MOONS, where the l i n k between w r i t i n g and l i f e i s i n s i s t e n t l y c a l l e d to the reader's a t t e n t i o n , perhaps most memorably by means of the cardiogram r e f e r r e d to twice i n the t i t l e s t o r y . The n a r r a t o r ' s a t t e n t i o n i s drawn to the screen above her f a t h e r ' s h o s p i t a l bed, on which, "a b r i g h t jagged l i n e was c o n t i n u a l l y being w r i t t e n " (p. 217). N a t u r a l l y the daughter's wo r r i e d gaze focuses on the l i n e because she knows th a t i t s c o n t i n u i t y r e p r e s e n t s her f a t h e r ' s b e a t i n g h e a r t . So long as the l i n e w r i t e s , he l i v e s . Whereas WHO was preoccupied with s e p a r a t i o n , MOONS i s obsessed with c o n n e c t i o n . The f a m i l y h i s t o r i a n who na r r a t e s the f i r s t and l a s t s t o r i e s i n MOONS r e p l a c e s Rose, the i c o n o c l a s t of WHO, h e l l b e n t on escape,' f i r s t from her f a m i l y and s o c i a l c l a s s , and l a t e r from her husband's Py g m a l i a n - l i k e attempts to mold her i n t o a female r e p l i c a of h i m s e l f . In order to d i s c o v e r her own i n d i v i d u a l i t y , Rose 132 must break f r e e of these c o n s t r a i n t s ; but, by the c o n c l u s i o n , she has become c l o s e r to her stepmother, the v i l l a i n e s s of her c h i l d h o o d , now s t r i p p e d of her former power through s e n i l i t y . In MOONS, the p r o g r e s s i o n from d e s t r u c t i o n to r e b u i l d i n g c o n t i n u e s : s h a t t e r e d f a m i l y t i e s are r e - j o i n e d , and connections with the past have become d e s i r a b l e . S e v e r a l n a r r a t o r s undertake sentimental journeys to a n c e s t r a l farms, o n l y to d i s c o v e r t h a t nothing remains on the land to mark where t h e i r people once were; ye t memories s u r v i v e , p r e s e r v i n g the past i n t o the prese n t . The stone which marked the grave of a r e c l u s i v e h i r e d man has disappeared i n "The Stone i n the F i e l d " , w h i le i n " V i s i t o r s " , the f a m i l y farm has been turned i n t o a Cons e r v a t i o n Area: A l b e r t walked up and down i n the g r a s s . He made a t u r n , he stopped and looked around and s t a r t e d a g a i n . He was t r y i n g to get the o u t l i n e of the house. W i l f r e d frowned a t the grass and s a i d , "They don't leave you much." (pp. 211-12) Inexorably, time changes the landscape of c h i l d h o o d . To a gre a t e x t e n t , MOONS i s preoccupied with time: For i n s t a n c e l a s t s p r i n g , l a s t autumn i n A u s t r a l i a , when I was happy, the l i n e t h a t would go through my head, a t a merry c l i p , was t h i s : "Even such i s time, t h a t takes i n t r u s t — " I c o u l d not go on, though I knew t r u s t rhymed with dust and t h a t there was something f u r t h e r along about "and i n the dark and s i l e n t grave, shuts up the s t o r y of our days." I knew the poem was w r i t t e n by S i r Walter R a l e i g h on the eve of h i s e x e c u t i o n . My mood d i d not accord with such a poem and I s a i d i t , i n my head, as i f i t was something p r e t t y and l i g h t h e a r t e d . 133 I d i d not stop to wonder what i t was doing i n my head i n the f i r s t p l a c e , (p. 122) The metaphorical l i n k between the poem and the n a r r a t o r ' s experience was present i n her mind long b e f o r e she 2 understood i t . Even i n her happiness, she was aware of time and change, and knew t h a t her joy would end. In the mind, present experience i s c o n t i n u a l l y being m o d i f i e d with r e f e r e n c e to r e c o l l e c t i o n s as d i v e r s e as an E l i z a b e t h a n poem or a s p i n s t e r r e l a t i o n : I t h i n k of being an o l d maid i n another g e n e r a t i o n . There were p l e n t y of o l d maids i n my f a m i l y . I come of s t r a i g h t e n e d people, madly s e c r e t i v e , t e n a c i o u s , economical. L i k e them, I c o u l d make a l i t t l e go a long way. (p. HO) The n a r r a t o r r e c o g n i z e s t h a t i t i s not outward, but i n n e r , experience t h a t matters; not what happens but how women f e e l about i t . The free - w h e e l i n g n a r r a t o r s of MOONS, with t h e i r temporary l o v e r s , seem a t f i r s t glance f a r removed from the l o n e l y o l d maids of the past; but, l i k e t h e i r f o r e r u n n e r s , they end up f i n g e r i n g t h e i r keepsakes while the beloved man moves on: "A pi e c e of Chinese s i l k f o l d e d i n a drawer. . . . the one l e t t e r , hidden under maidenly garments, never needing to be opened or read because every word i s known by he a r t , and a touch communicates the whole" (p. 110). These women who t r e a s u r e the r e l i c s of t h e i r l o s t loves resemble the d i s c a r d e d m i s t r e s s i n "Prue", who s t e a l s her former l o v e r ' s amber c u f f l i n k . Although Prue's f r i e n d s b e l i e v e she 134 i s "somebody who doesn't take h e r s e l f too s e r i o u s l y , who i s so unintense, and c i v i l i z e d , and never makes any r e a l demands or complaints" (p. 129), t h e i r assumptions are q u e s t i o n a b l e . In common with the o l d maids of past g e n e r a t i o n s , Prue behaves with s t o i c a l f o r t i t u d e , but her d i s t u r b e d i n n e r l i f e i s r a d i c a l l y d i f f e r e n t from her outwardly calm appearance. She i s s u s t a i n i n g h e r s e l f by means of f a n t a s i e s , j u s t as women i n her p o s i t i o n always have. S i m i l a r l y , the n a r r a t o r of "Bardon Bus" e x e m p l i f i e s the power of f a n t a s y to i r r a d i a t e l i f e and temper the l o s s of a beloved man. A p p r o p r i a t e l y , the l o v e r with whom the n a r r a t o r of "Bardon Bus" l i v e d i n A u s t r a l i a i s an a n t h r o p o l o g i s t , someone who s t u d i e s human beings; t h e r e f o r e , h i s h a b i t of moving from one woman to the next i s c o n s i s t e n t with h i s p r o f e s s i o n a l c u r i o s i t y . His f r i e n d , Dennis, compares X's s u c c e s s i o n of m i s t r e s s e s with the excavated f i g u r e s a t Sian i n China: "He s a i d i t reminded him of X's women. Row on row and always a new one appearing a t the end of the l i n e " (p. 119). Although the n a r r a t o r r e j e c t s t h i s m a l i c i o u s comparison, her p r o t e s t has a hollow r i n g : I t h i n k the comparison's a b i t o f f . Nobody has to d i g the women out and stand them on t h e i r f e e t . Nobody puts them t h e r e . They came along and j o i n e d up of t h e i r own f r e e w i l l . They're not a standing army. Most of them are probably on t h e i r way to someplace e l s e anyway, (p. 120) X r e p l i e s , "Bravo", as w e l l he might, s i n c e her a t t i t u d e allows him to pursue h i s predatory course undeterred by 135 t e a r f u l r e c r i m i n a t i o n s . Yet the t e a r s w i l l be shed e v e n t u a l l y when the n a r r a t o r g r i e v e s i n p r i v a t e , c o m p u l s i v e l y r e c a l l i n g the d e t a i l s of t h e i r p a s s i o n even though she re c o g n i z e s the f o l l y of t h i s k i n d of s e l f - t o r t u r e : "The images, the language, of pornography and romance are a l i k e : monotonous and mech a n i c a l l y s e d u c t i v e , q u i c k l y l e a d i n g to d e s p a i r " (p. 123). By escaping i n t o l u r i d f a n t a s i e s , the n a r r a t o r makes h e r s e l f more unhappy; but by t r a n s f o r m i n g her memories i n t o a decadent f i c t i o n , she can achieve some c o n t r o l over them. A r t i f i c i a l i t y i s enhanced by c a l l i n g the l o v e r "X", the c h o i c e of l e t t e r r e c a l l i n g the s e n s a t i o n a l c o n f e s s i o n a l novel THE HAPPY HOOKER, w r i t t e n by a p r o s t i t u t e with a conspicuous "X" i n 3 her name, X a v i e r a H o l l a n d e r . T h i s book i s r e f e r r e d to d i r e c t l y i n "Labor Day Dinner", i n which i t appears on a teen-age g i r l ' s summer re a d i n g l i s t . In "Bardon Bus", the o b l i q u e r e f e r e n c e to p r o s t i t u t i o n suggests how, l i k e the p r o s t i t u t e , the n a r r a t o r of "Bardon Bus" allows h e r s e l f to be a convenience a man may use and then d i s c a r d , without being o b l i g e d to l i s t e n to her p r o t e s t s or face her g r i e f . Another s t o r y of love and l o s s i s t o l d from the woman's p o i n t of view by L y d i a i n "Dulse". She r e c a l l s her f i r s t s i g h t of her l o v e r , Duncan, when he came to the bookstore where she worked to ask f o r a copy of THE PERSIAN LETTERS. The Montesquieu work serves as a p r e t e x t f o r Duncan to a i r h i s b i b l i o g r a p h i c knowledge f o r the s t o r e c l e r k . Overhearing t h e i r c o n v e r s a t i o n , L y d i a forms a f i r s t 0 136 impression of Duncan as a show-off, a judgement t h a t c o l o u r s the reader's assessment of him from then on. In a d d i t i o n to t h i s o v e r t use of a l i t e r a r y r e f e r e n c e to r e v e a l c h a r a c t e r , the unstated p a r a l l e l s between Duncan and h i s book c h o i c e go much deeper. In THE PERSIAN LETTERS, three P e r s i a n gentlemen, R i c a , Usbek, and Rhedi, t r a v e l to Europe, where they study manners and i n s t i t u t i o n s . P a r t i c u l a r l y r e l e v a n t to Duncan i s the l e t t e r w r i t t e n to Usbek by Fatme, one of h i s wives l e f t behind i n the s e r a g l i o , who d e s c r i b e s f e e l i n g s s i m i l a r to Ly d i a ' s when she i s r e j e c t e d by Duncan: How hapless i s the l o t of a woman who has such v i o l e n t d e s i r e s and y e t i s de p r i v e d of the s o c i e t y of the onl y person who can s a t i s f y them. L e f t to h e r s e l f , with nothing to preoccupy her mind, her whole l i f e i s spent i n ^ si g h s and i n the d e l i r i u m of exasperated p a s s i o n . Fatme's d e l i r i u m i s r e c a l l e d i n L y d i a ' s t r a n c e - l i k e e x i s t e n c e i n Toronto a f t e r her f i n a l attempt to telephone Duncan. L i v i n g alone a g a i n , she has d i f f i c u l t y g e t t i n g through such elementary r o u t i n e s as t a k i n g the subway or buying a l o a f of bread: She thought afterwards t h a t she had been s e i z e d up, as machines are s a i d to be. Even a t the time she had an image of h e r s e l f . She saw h e r s e l f as something l i k e an egg c a r t o n , hollowed out i n back.(p. 41) For Fatme and L y d i a , l o s i n g the beloved i s l i k e l o s i n g a 137 p a r t of themselves. In c o n t r a s t , men more e a s i l y resume t h e i r everyday l i v e s when a love a f f a i r ends because they r e t a i n p r i v a t e areas of s e l f where women are never allowed. Even while L y d i a was l i v i n g with Duncan, h i s apartment r e t a i n e d i t s b a c h e l o r c h a r a c t e r , reminding her t h a t she was on l y a temporary r e s i d e n t : She thought about Duncan's apartment. . . . A l l d i s o r d e r was a c t u a l l y o r d e r , c a r e f u l l y thought out and not to be i n t e r f e r e d w i t h . There was a b e a u t i f u l l i t t l e rug a t the end of the h a l l , where he s a t and l i s t e n e d to music. There was one gr e a t , ugly armchair, a masterpiece of en g i n e e r i n g , with a l l i t s attachments f o r the head and limbs. „(pp. 53-4) Into t h i s s e l f i s h s y b a r i t e ' s p r i v a c y t i p t o e s L y d i a , b r i n g i n g f l o w e r s and g i f t s , adapting h e r s e l f to her l o v e r ' s household arrangements, f i t t i n g her needs to h i s , even enduring h i s reminiscences about other women: Duncan spoke about h i s former g i r l f r i e n d s . E f f i c i e n t Ruth, p e r t Judy, v i v a c i o u s Diane, e l e g a n t D e l o r e s , w i f e l y Maxine, L o r r a i n e the gol d e n - h a i r e d , f u l l - b r e a s t e d beauty; Marian the m u l t i l i n g u a l ; C a r o l i n e the n e u r o t i c ; R o s a l i e who was w i l d and g y p s y - l i k e ; g i f t e d , melancholy L o u i s e ; serene s o c i a l i t e Jane. (p. 52) Thi s harem r e c a l l ' s Usbek's, and presupposes a s i m i l a r view of women as amusing p l a y t h i n g s . A s i g n i f i c a n t omission i n THE PERSIAN LETTERS i s an answering l e t t e r from Usbek to Fatme, whereas the c o l l e c t i o n c o n t a i n s s e v e r a l communications from Usbek to h i s c h i e f eunuch, the a d m i n i s t r a t o r of the s e r a g l i o . 138 L i k e Usbek, Duncan c o n s i d e r s women i n c i d e n t a l i n h i s l i f e ; h i s a t t i t u d e i s best expressed i n Byron's Don Juan: "Man's love i s of man's l i f e a t h i n g a p a r t , / ' T i s woman's whole e x i s t e n c e " (I c x c i v ) . C e r t a i n l y Kay, the n a r r a t o r ' s f r i e n d i n "Bardon Bus", e x e m p l i f i e s the ki n d of woman who i s completely taken over by l o v e : "She takes up a man and h i s s t o r y wholeheartedly. She l e a r n s h i s language, f i g u r a t i v e l y or l i t e r a l l y " (p. 116). By f a l l i n g i n love w i t h a s e r i e s of men, and remaking h e r s e l f to s u i t each one, Kay seems an extreme case of female f o l l y , but the n a r r a t o r i n s i s t s t h a t she i s t y p i c a l : "In none of t h i s i s she so e x c e p t i o n a l . She does what women do. Perhaps she does i t more o f t e n , more openly, j u s t a b i t more i l l - a d v i s e d l y and more f e r v e n t l y " (p. 116). The p o i n t i s t h a t women tend to de s p e r a t i o n i n t h e i r need f o r men's l o v e . By way of rei n f o r c e m e n t , a b r i e f but t a n t a l i z i n g r e f e r e n c e to W i l l a Cather's n o v e l , A LOST LADY, a f f o r d s a c l o s e l i t e r a r y p a r a l l e l with L y d i a i n "Dulse". An e l d e r l y man s t a y i n g a t the same guesthouse as L y d i a engages her i n c o n v e r s a t i o n about W i l l a Cather, once a summer r e s i d e n t of the i s l a n d , and a r e s e a r c h i n t e r e s t of the o l d man, who names A LOST LADY as h i s f a v o u r i t e of her works. The l o s t lady of Cather's romance i s Marian F o r r e s t e r , a b e a u t i f u l adventuress who, as the young wife to a r i c h and powerful o l d e r man, commands the admiration of a wide c i r c l e of male acguaintances. As her husband's f o r t u n e and h e a l t h 139 d e c l i n e , Mrs. F o r r e s t e r ' s s t a t u s s l i p s and her need f o r love i n t e n s i f i e s , f i n d i n g i t s o u t l e t i n younger, l e s s s u i t a b l e men, to the dismay of the ado r i n g young Niel,who has imagined her as a lady chaste and f a i r : Mrs. F o r r e s t e r ' s hand t i g h t e n e d on h i s arm. She began speaking a b r u p t l y . 'You see, two yea r s , three y e a r s , more of t h i s , and I c o u l d s t i l l go back to C a l i f o r n i a — a n d l i v e a g a i n . But a f t e r t h a t . . . Perhaps people t h i n k I've s e t t l e d down to grow o l d g r a c e f u l l y , but I've not. I f e e l such a power to l i v e i n jne, N i e l . ' Her sl e n d e r f i n g e r s g r i p p e d h i s w r i s t . 5 N i e l i s h o r r i f i e d when h i s former i d o l confesses such human lo n g i n g s , and d i s g u s t e d when she forms a l i a i s o n with a mor a l l y and s o c i a l l y i n f e r i o r young man who t r e a t s her with savage d i s r e s p e c t . Although there are h i n t s i n the n a r r a t i v e t h a t Mrs. F o r r e s t e r responds to Ivy Pe t e r s ' rough sexual treatment, Ivy's motives are more vengeful than s e x u a l : he i t c h e s to punish the l o c a l a r i s t o c r a c y which once looked down on him. Mrs. F o r r e s t e r ' s example i l l u m i n a t e s L y d i a ' s s i t u a t i o n . She too i s a woman who lo s e s the p r o t e c t i o n of a man, and whose s t a t u s i n the eyes of other men d e c l i n e s a c c o r d i n g l y . In the new m i l i e u of the i s l a n d , her former p o s i t i o n as Duncan's m i s t r e s s i s i r r e l e v a n t . L i k e her f i c t i o n a l p r edecessor, L y d i a seeks male companionship and admi r a t i o n . To the telephone work crew with whom she pl a y s cards i n the guesthouse k i t c h e n , she i s j u s t a woman, the o b j e c t of t h e i r sexual s p e c u l a t i o n s as they are o b j e c t s of he r s . From her 140 detached vantage p o i n t beyond p h y s i c a l d e s i r e , L y d i a decides t h a t V i n c e n t would have been her c h o i c e , but she i s not i m p e l l e d to a c t upon i t ; i n s t e a d , she merely wonders what i t might have been l i k e had she s e t t l e d down with someone l i k e him: That i s , should she have stayed i n the p l a c e where love i s managed f o r you, not gone where you have to i n v e n t i t , and r e - i n v e n t i t , and never know i f these e f f o r t s w i l l be enough? (p. 52) The emotional s t r a i n of attempting to i n v e n t new forms of l o v i n g o u t s i d e the t r a d i t i o n a l form of marriage has been hard on L y d i a . She has been d i s c u s s i n g her f e e l i n g s with a p s y c h i a t r i s t , and a remembered fragment of t h e i r c o n v e r s a t i o n r e v e a l s how v u l n e r a b l e the a f f a i r has made her, how l i t t l e s e l f r e s p e c t she has r e t a i n e d : "What about you?" s a i d the d o c t o r . "What do you want?" "For him to love me?" "Not f o r you to love him?" (p. 53) L i k e most of the women i n MOONS, L y d i a p e r s i s t s i n v a l u i n g h e r s e l f i n accordance with the f e e l i n g s she arouses i n the man she l o v e s . Such women are n a t u r a l l y a f r a i d to annqy t h e i r men, and take pains to p l a c a t e them. Think of the mother i n the t i t l e s t o r y as she observes her daughter's m o l l i f y i n g touch on the arm of a young man: J u d i t h moved ahead and touched Don's arm. I knew th a t t o u c h — a n apology, an anxious reassurance. You touch a man t h a t way to remind him t h a t you 141 are g r a t e f u l , t h a t you r e a l i z e he i s doing f o r your sake something t h a t bores him or s l i g h t l y endangers h i s d i g n i t y . I t made me f e e l o l d e r than g r a n d c h i l d r e n would to see my daughter touch a man—a b o y — t h i s way. (p. 223) What moves the mother i s the s i g h t of her independent daughter's dependence on a man's a p p r o v a l . Although J u d i t h l i v e s with her b o y f r i e n d i n s t e a d of marrying him, her r e l a t i o n s h i p with Don i s no d i f f e r e n t from t h a t of a t r a d i t i o n a l w i f e ' s to her husband. In f a c t , J u d i t h ' s a p o l o g e t i c a t t i t u d e p a r a l l e l s her mother's i n the l i n k e d s t o r y , "Chaddleys and Flemings", which opens t h i s volume. There, the mother-narrator was unable to b r i n g h e r s e l f to ask her husband to d r i v e her aunt from her h o t e l to t h e i r house: I had not wanted to ask Richard to go to the h o t e l f o r her. I would not say I was a f r a i d to ask him; I simply wanted to keep t h i n g s from s t a r t i n g o f f on the wrong f o o t , by making him do what he hadn't o f f e r e d to do. (p. 13) Despite these r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n s , the n a r r a t o r b e t r a y s her f e a r of making demands of her husband. She seems to b e l i e v e t h a t she has r e l i n q u i s h e d her r i g h t s along with her maiden name, and the duty to adapt to marriage i s e n t i r e l y h e r s . Raciier than being an advancing s t r a i g h t l i n e , the movement i n MOONS i s c i r c u l a r , r e v o l v i n g l i k e the heavenly c y c l e s of the moons around J u p i t e r . The g i r l c h i l d a l l u d e d to by the n a r r a t o r i n "Chaddleys and Flemings" has grown up to become dominated by a man j u s t as her mother was. L i f e 142 i s seen, then, as a r e c u r r i n g s t o r y , most i r o n i c a l l y i n the case of Mrs. Kidd and Mrs. Cross, two o l d women who r e - e s t a b l i s h i n the n u r s i n g home the mot h e r - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p s they had years b e f o r e : Mrs. Cross adopts Jack, a s t r o k e v i c t i m , and Mrs. Kidd r e c i p r o c a t e s by b e f r i e n d i n g C h a r l o t t e , who has m u l t i p l e s c l e r o s i s . The r i v a l r y which Mrs. Kidd and Mrs. Cross e s t a b l i s h e d as l i t t l e g i r l s i s reawakened over these surrogate c h i l d r e n , and the f a m i l i a r p a t t e r n of c h i l d r e n growing up and l e a v i n g t h e i r mothers i s repeated when Jack and C h a r l o t t e p a i r o f f , l e a v i n g the two o l d women alone together once a g a i n . Inured to l o s s , they r e t a i n the a b i l i t y to d i s c u s s what has happened, thereby p a r t l y r e s t o r i n g t h e i r p e r s p e c t i v e . As o l d acquaintances who understand each o t h e r ' s spoken and unspoken thoughts, they exemplify the importance of speech and s t o r y t e l l i n g as a b a s i s f o r f r i e n d s h i p . By c o n t r a s t , Jack, h i s speech blocked by the e f f e c t s of a s t r o k e , s t r u g g l e s v a i n l y to communicate: He opened h i s mouth and s a i d , "Anh-anh-anh," "Yes," s a i d Mrs. Cross encouragingly. "Yes?" "Anh-anh-anh," s a i d Jack. He f l a p p e d h i s r i g h t hand. Tears came i n t o h i s eyes.(p. 167) Jack i s desperate to t e l l Mrs. Cross about h i s p a s t . Without being able to o f f e r her e s s e n t i a l i n f o r m a t i o n about h i s background i n exchange f o r the i n f o r m a t i o n she g i v e s him about hers, he cannot be her f r i e n d . Despite her l i m i t e d e d u c a t i o n , Mrs. Cross has the good sense to t r e a t Jack as 143 she t r e a t e d her c h i l d r e n when they were young; she makes up que s t i o n s r e q u i r i n g yes or no answers from him: Jack was p o i n t i n g a t one of the p i c t u r e s . . . . "What about i t ? T h i s i s l i k e one of those t h i n g s on t e l e v i s i o n . Trees? Green? Pine t r e e s ? Is i t the deer? Three deer? No? Yes? Three red deer?" He f l a p p e d h i s arm up and down and she s a i d , "I don't know, r e a l l y . Three-red-deer. Wait a minute. That's a p l a c e . . . . Red Deer." (p. 170) Mrs. Cross i s i n t e l l i g e n t enough to i n v e n t the game and p a t i e n t enough to p l a y i t because of her l i k i n g f o r Jack. Seeing Mrs. Kidd and C h a r l o t t e p l a y i n g S c r a b b l e , she immediately t h i n k s of us i n g the l e t t e r t i l e s to h e l p Jack to communicate. Instead of p l e a s i n g Jack, however, the Scrabble l e t t e r s provoke the c l i m a c t i c scene i n which Jack and C h a r l o t t e j o i n f o r c e s a g a i n s t Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Kidd, throw o f f t h e i r power and leave them f e e l i n g weak and r i d i c u l o u s : He made a sound of d i s g u s t and pushed the Scrabble board and a l l the l e t t e r s to the f l o o r , a l l the time l o o k i n g a t Mrs. Cross so t h a t there c o u l d be no doubt t h a t t h i s d i s g u s t and f u r y had been aroused by her. She knew th a t i t was important at t h i s moment to speak c o l d l y and f i r m l y . . . . But she was not able to say a word, such a f e e l i n g of g r i e f , and shock, and h e l p l e s s n e s s rose i n her h e a r t , (p. 177) Weakened by o l d age and a bad h e a r t , Mrs. Cross i s dra i n e d by the emotional expenditure of the c o n f r o n t a t i o n with Jack. As comfort, her f r i e n d Mrs. Kidd o f f e r s her a s t o r y which d e s c r i b e s Mrs. Kidd's own weakness f o l l o w i n g a b l a c k - o u t she 144 s u f f e r e d , but ends r e a s s u r i n g l y with her being r e s t o r e d to s t r e n g t h : As a matter of f a c t , Mrs. Cross had heard Mrs. Kidd t e l l t h i s s t o r y b e f o r e , but i t was a long time ago and she laughed now not j u s t to be o b l i g i n g ; she laughed with r e l i e f . Mrs. Kidd's f i r m v o i c e had spread a numbing ointment over her misery, (p. 179) The s t o r y has achieved the d e s i r e d e f f e c t of encouraging Mrs. Cross not to l o s e hope d e s p i t e the c o l l a p s e of the r e l a t i o n s h i p she had b u i l t with Jack. By her m a t t e r - o f - f a c t manner, Mrs. Kidd reminds her f r i e n d t h a t there are worse l o s s e s than the regard of a young man whom she was t r y i n g to h e l p . Mrs. Cross may have l o s t Jack, but her o l d f r i e n d i s s t i l l a t her s i d e . Moreover, although she t r i e d to ignore i t , Mrs. Cross knew i n s t i n c t i v e l y t h a t the t i e between Jack and h e r s e l f was f r a g i l e . She always took exaggerated care not to anger him, and was amazed t h a t he per m i t t e d C h a r l o t t e to tease him: "Anh-an-anh?" s a i d C h a r l o t t e , t e a s i n g him. What ki n d of a word i s t h a t , anh-anh-anh?" Mrs. Cross waited f o r the s k i e s to f a l l , but the o n l y t h i n g Jack d i d was g i g g l e , and C h a r l o t t e g i g g l e d , so t h a t there was a s o r t of g i g g l i n g -match s e t up between the two of them. (p. 177) C h a r l o t t e ' s a p p r e c i a t i v e g i g g l e draws her c l o s e r to Jack than Mrs. Cross has managed to get d e s p i t e a l l her p a t i e n t k indness. By going o f f with C h a r l o t t e , Jack r e v e a l s the s u p e r i o r f o r c e of sexual communication over v e r b a l communication. I t i s another i l l u s t r a t i o n of the 145 g r a v i t a t i o n a l f o r c e between J u p i t e r and the moons. Although Mrs. Cross has proven h e r s e l f a b e t t e r f r i e n d to Jack than C h a r l o t t e i s , he abandons the o l d e r f o r the younger woman who a t t r a c t s him s e x u a l l y . T h i s p a t t e r n i s repeated i n "Hard Luck S t o r i e s " , when the n a r r a t o r d e s c r i b e s her dismay a t the d i s c o v e r y t h a t the man she was i n love with was p a s s i o n a t e l y drawn not to her, but to the woman at whose house they were s t a y i n g : "He'd brought me there to counter her wi t h . I was h i s s e n s i b l e c h o i c e . 1 was the woman he l i k e d . I c o u l d n ' t stand t h a t . I c o u l d n ' t stand i t " (p. 195). Here the n a r r a t o r repeats the same sentiment she has d e c l a r e d e a r l i e r : t h a t d e s p i t e paying l i p - s e r v i c e to the n o t i o n t h a t the best love i s r a t i o n a l , she i n s t i n c t i v e l y understands t h a t what matters i s i r r a t i o n a l sexual a t t r a c t i o n : There's the i n t e l l i g e n t s o r t of love t h a t makes an i n t e l l i g e n t c h o i c e . That's the ki n d you're supposed to get married on. Then th e r e ' s the ki n d t h a t ' s anything but i n t e l l i g e n t , t h a t ' s l i k e a p o s s e s s i o n . And t h a t ' s the one, t h a t ' s the one, everybody v a l u e s . That's the one nobody wants to have missed out on. (p. 195) Since love i s not commanded by reason, i t becomes a matter of l u c k , w i t h the odds a g a i n s t both members of the couple being obsessed by each o t h e r . T h e r e f o r e , the s t o r i e s of past love are p r o p e r l y designated as hard luck s t o r i e s . The two women t e l l about t h e i r p r e v i o u s a f f a i r s , unconsummated i n J u l i e ' s case. She speaks d e p r e c a t i n g l y of her 146 r e v e l a t i o n s as, " l a y i n g - b a r e my r i d i c u l o u s a l m o s t - a f f a i r s " (p. 191), prompting Douglas to misquote the song from GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE: Back and s i d e go bare, go bare, Both f o o t and hand go c o l d : But b e l l y God send thee good a l e enough, Whether i t be new or o l d . 6 i Douglas a l t e r s the f i r s t l i n e to "Back and s i d e l a y bare, l a y bare", and t h i s unusual i n s t a n c e of Munro's changing a word i n an embedded q u o t a t i o n assumes added importance because of i t s r a r i t y . The e f f e c t of the change i s to strengthen the connection between being and t e l l i n g . For a reader who rec o g n i z e s the l i n e s , the two v e r s i o n s p l a y o f f one another so t h a t the image of the half-naked body of the ragged a l e d r i n k e r complements the image of the women attempting to t e l l the t r u t h about t h e i r unhappy past experiences w i t h men. S i g n i f i c a n t l y , i t i s the two women who t e l l s t o r i e s about t h e i r past l o v e s . Douglas Reider, whose male presence i s probably i n s t r u m e n t a l i n provoking t h e i r s t o r i e s , c o n f i n e s h i s anecdotes to t a l e s of the p r i v a t e d e a l e r s i n o l d d i a r i e s and l e t t e r s who are h i s business r i v a l s . The n a r r a t o r d e s c r i b e s him as y o u t h f u l - l o o k i n g i n a s p e c i a l sense of the term: I am t h i n k i n g of the hard y o u t h f u l n e s s , the jaunty grim looks you o f t e n see i n photographs of servicemen i n the Second World War. Douglas was one of those, and i s preserved, not r i p e n e d . Oh, the modesty and s a t i s f a c t i o n of those f a c e s , clamped down on t h e i r s e c r e t s 1 With such men the descent i n t o love i s s w i f t and 147 p r i v a t e and am a z i n g — s o i s t h e i r r ecovery, (p. 184) Un l i k e J u l i e and the n a r r a t o r , Douglas does not " l a y bare" h i s past l o v e s , so the reader i s f r e e to assume t h a t he i s l e s s s c a r r e d by love than are the two women. D e s c r i b i n g h i s work to her f r i e n d , the n a r r a t o r says, "He's a s o r t of p i r a t e , r e a l l y " (p. 184), and c e r t a i n l y the metaphor of men as p i r a t e s of women's love pervades the s t o r i e s i n MOONS. I t can be a p p r o p r i a t e l y a p p l i e d to Duncan i n "Dulse", to Alex i n "Bardon Bus", Gordon i n "Prue" and George i n "Labor Day Dinner". A s i g n i f i c a n t e x c e p t i o n , however, i s W i l f r e d i n " V i s i t o r s " , a man who epitomizes the s e n s i b l e m a r i t a l c h o i c e r e j e c t e d by the n a r r a t o r of "Hard Luck S t o r i e s " . W i l f r e d , who rescues M i l d r e d with h i s marriage proposal a f t e r the death of her former p r o t e c t o r , Mr. T o l l , i s a f r i e n d l y a l t e r - e g o f o r M i l d r e d , a c o n c l u s i o n r e i n f o r c e d by the s i m i l a r i t y i n t h e i r names. In a d d i t i o n to t h e i r shared t a s t e s i n l e i s u r e a c t i v i t i e s (evenings a t the Legion to p l a y d a r t s and d r i n k b e e r ) , they share a common conc e p t i o n of a s t o r y as a c o n s t r u c t which has meaning beyond i t s f a c t u a l value as h i s t o r y : I f W i l f r e d had been t e l l i n g t h a t s t o r y , M i l d r e d thought, there would have been some k i n d of ending to i t . . . . I n W i l f r e d ' s s t o r i e s you co u l d always be sure t h a t the gloomy p a r t s would gi v e way to something b e t t e r , and i f somebody behaved i n a p e c u l i a r way there was an ex p l a n a t i o n f o r i t . I f W i l f r e d f i g u r e d i n h i s own s t o r i e s , as he u s u a l l y d i d , there 148 was always a s t r o k e of luck f o r him somewhere, a good meal or a b o t t l e of whisky or some money. Ne i t h e r luck nor money played a p a r t i n t h i s s t o r y . She wondered why A l b e r t had t o l d i t , what i t had meant to him. (p. 215) As soon as M i l d r e d i n q u i r e s about the meaning of the s t o r y , she r e a l i z e s t h a t she has made a mistake. Her b r o t h e r - i n - l a w i s offended by her c u r i o s i t y : " A l b e r t p i c k e d up a c o l d p i e c e of hamburger and put i t down and s a i d , ' I t ' s not a s t o r y . I t ' s something t h a t happened'"(p. 215). In " V i s i t o r s " , a c h a r a c t e r ' s s t o r y t e l l i n g a b i l i t y p a r a l l e l s h i s a p p e t i t e f o r food and d r i n k . The t h i n , t e e t o t a l A l b e r t has meagre p h y s i c a l a p p e t i t e s . U n l i k e h i s e n t h u s i a s t i c b r o t h e r , W i l f r e d , he i s a c o l o u r l e s s i n d i v i d u a l who r e v e a l s almost nothing about h i m s e l f . M i l d r e d becomes exhausted t r y i n g to e n t e r t a i n him because he and h i s wife and her s i s t e r cannot suggest any p l a c e they are i n t e r e s t e d i n s e e i n g except the P e n t e c o s t a l church. They conform to a p a t t e r n i n Munro's f i c t i o n i n which r e l i g i o u s f a i t h i s f r e q u e n t l y a s i g n of b l i n d n e s s and r i g i d i t y . Because the f a i t h f u l t h i n k they know i n advance how the s t o r y comes out, they are not s t r u g g l i n g l i k e the c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r s to understand the meaning of t h e i r l i v e s . A l b e r t i s l i k e David's b e a t i f i c g i r l f r i e n d Kimberly i n "Labor Day Dinner": Kimberley i s endangered on two s i d e s , Roberta t h i n k s . But she w i l l manage. She i s s t r o n g enough to h o l d onto David through any number of Angelas, and s t r o n g enough to h o l d her smile i n the face of George's a t t a c k on her f a i t h . Does her smile f o r e s e e how he w i l l burn? Not l i k e l y . She f o r e s e e s , i n s t e a d , how a l l of them 149 w i l l stumble and wander around and t i e themselves i n knots; what does i t matter who wins the argument; For Kimberly a l l the arguments have a l r e a d y been won. (p. 156) There i s a s t r e a k of malice i n David's mother's a p p r a i s a l of Kimberley, and s i m i l a r malice i n the p o r t r a i t of the orthodox F i n n i s h Lutheran s i s t e r - i n - l a w i n " A c c i d e n t " , so convinced of her r i g h t e o u s n e s s t h a t she takes over the f u n e r a l arrangements f o r her s i s t e r ' s dead c h i l d , c o n f i d e n t l y d i s c h a r g e s her duty to r e v e a l her s i s t e r ' s husband's i n f i d e l i t y , and even demands t h a t the h i g h s c h o o l p r i n c i p a l put a stop to the a f f a i r . As a r e s u l t , the u n f a i t h f u l husband j u s t i f i e s h i m s e l f by d i v o r c i n g h i s w i f e and marrying h i s m i s t r e s s , completely o v e r t u r n i n g h i s s i s t e r - i n - l a w ' s i n t e n t i o n s . In the f i n a l segment of t h i s s t o r y , the tense changes from past to present as the second w i f e , now middle-aged, contemplates her past, and sees how her l i f e has been interwoven with the l i v e s of o t h e r s . As she looks back, her memories remind her of a s t o r y with a l t e r n a t e endings. She b e l i e v e s t h a t the p a t t e r n of her l i f e had been f o r her to remain s i n g l e , but i t was a l t e r e d by a combination of chance events. I f Fred Beecher had not decided to use h i s car to d e l i v e r a baby c a r r i a g e across town, Ted's son would not have d i e d , and Ted would not have married her: She's had her l o v e , her s c a n d a l , her man, her c h i l d r e n . But i n s i d e she's t i c k i n g away, a l l by h e r s e l f , the same Frances who was there before any of i t . (p. 109) 150 D e s p i t e her a l t e r e d circumstances, Frances t h i n k s she has an i n n e r core of s e l f which i s u n a f f e c t e d by what happens to her. She knows she i s more than the sum of her e x p e r i e n c e s . Shared by s e v e r a l p r o t a g o n i s t s i n MOONS, t h i s new i n s i g h t a f f e c t s t h e i r a t t i t u d e to s t o r y t e l l i n g , suddenly b r i n g i n g them up s h o r t i n the middle of a n a r r a t i v e , when they r e a l i z e how s t o r y t e l l i n g tends to t r i v i a l i z e people's l i v e s : I f I had been younger, I would have f i g u r e d out a s t o r y . I would have i n s i s t e d on Mr. Black's being i n love with one of my aunts, and on one of them—not n e c e s s a r i l y the one he was i n love with — b e i n g i n love with him. I would have wished him to c o n f i d e i n them, i n one of them, h i s s e c r e t , h i s reason f o r l i v i n g i n .a shack i n Huron County, f a r from home. L a t e r , I might have b e l i e v e d t h a t he wanted t o , but hadn't c o n f i d e d t h i s , or h i s love e i t h e r . I would have made a h o r r i b l e , p l a u s i b l e c o n n e c t i o n between t h a t s i l e n c e of h i s , and the manner of h i s death. Now I no longer b e l i e v e t h a t people's s e c r e t s are d e f i n a b l e and communicable, or t h e i r f e e l i n g s f u l l - b l o w n and easy to r e c o g n i z e , (p. 35) There i s a new awareness here of people as more complex and mysterious than s t o r i e s about them ever show. Words i n e v i t a b l y f a l l s h o r t of conveying the t r u t h of people's l i v e s , as the n a r r a t o r of "Hard-Luck S t o r i e s " r e a l i z e s when she hears h e r s e l f d e p r e c a t i n g a word i n a verse on a tombstone: "Waft," I s a i d . "That sounds n i c e . " Then I f e l t something go over me—a shadow, a c h a s t e n i n g . I heard the s i l l y sound of my own v o i c e a g a i n s t the t r u t h of the l i v e s l a i d down here. (p. 196) 151 The s e l f - c o n s c i o u s tone o c c a s i o n a l l y present i n a l l Munro's books becomes s e l f - c r i t i c a l i n MOONS, as n a r r a t o r s c o n f r o n t the f a i l u r e of n a r r a t i v e s to encompass the m u l t i p l i c i t y and c o n t r a d i c t i o n of l i f e . The knowledge p a i n f u l l y a c q u i r e d by these n a r r a t o r s i s knowledge of t h e i r l i m i t a t i o n s , of b a r r i e r s which the s t o r y t e l l e r cannot c r o s s . In "The Turkey Season", the n a r r a t o r s p e c u l a t e s t h a t Herb was probably homosexual, and attempts to imagine h i s f e e l i n g s when B r i a n was f i r e d , ordered out of town and denounced as a p e r v e r t ; but u l t i m a t e l y she acknowledges the f u t i l i t y of her attempt to e x p l a i n what happened: L a t e r s t i l l , I backed o f f from t h i s e x p l a n a t i o n . I got to a stage of backing o f f from t h i n g s I co u l d n ' t r e a l l y know. I t ' s enough f o r me now j u s t to t h i n k of Herb's face with t h a t p e c u l i a r , s t r i c k e n look; to t h i n k of B r i a n monkeying i n the shade of Herb's d i g n i t y ; to t h i n k of my own m y s t i f i e d c o n c e n t r a t i o n on Herb, my need to c a t c h him out, i f I c o u l d ever get the chance, and then move i n and stay c l o s e to him. (p. 74) An e x p l a n a t i o n o f f e r e d and l a t e r r e j e c t e d does not disappear s i n c e , u n l i k e the other a r t s , l i t e r a t u r e i s able to say what i t has chosen not to say, as Suzanne Langer e x p l a i n s i n FEELING AND FORM: Where there i s no e x c l u s i o n of o p p o s i t e s , there i s a l s o , s t r i c t l y speaking, no n e g a t i v e . In non-verbal a r t s t h i s i s obvious; omissions may be s i g n i f i c a n t , but never as n e g a t i v e s . In l i t e r a t u r e , the words, "no," "not," "never," e t c . , occur f r e e l y , but what they deny i s thereby c r e a t e d . 7 T h e r e f o r e , when the n a r r a t o r claims to no longer b e l i e v e 152 something, the o r i g i n a l b e l i e f s t i l l stands; denying i t has n e i t h e r erased i t from the n a r r a t i v e nor caused the reader to f o r g e t i t . By means of negation, Munro widens her p o s s i b i l i t i e s f o r suggesting complexity and ambiguity without b r e a k i n g the i l l u s i o n t h a t the n a r r a t o r i s remembering a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e s . By r e p o r t i n g her changes of mind, the n a r r a t o r suggests how memories are c o n t i n u a l l y being extended and modified i n the process of r e f l e c t i o n . As Munro's n a r r a t o r s age, a d i s c e r n i b l e , but not i n v a r i a b l e , t r e n d i n succeeding books, t h e i r memories extend f a r enough back f o r them to r e a l i z e t h a t they have a l t e r e d t h e i r o p i n i o n s i n the course of time. A c c o r d i n g l y , they have grown l e s s c o n f i d e n t t h a t t h e i r p o i n t of view r e p r e s e n t s the t r u t h . Growing o l d e r , Munro 1s n a r r a t o r s have a l s o grown more detached. The sadness they f e e l as t h e i r power to a t t r a c t men d i m i n i s h e s i s balanced by a calm p l e a s u r e i n having reached a vantage p o i n t above the h u r l y - b u r l y of the sexual arena: She had n o t i c e d something about h e r s e l f , on t h i s t r i p to the Maritimes. I t was t h a t people were no longer i n t e r e s t e d i n g e t t i n g to know her. I t wasn't t h a t she had c r e a t e d such a s t i r b e f o r e , but something had been there t h a t she c o u l d r e l y on. . . She was not s u r p r i s e d because she was i n a new, strange c o n d i t i o n a t the time. She made e f f o r t s one a f t e r the o t h e r . She s e t l i t t l e b l o c k s on top of one another and she had a day. Sometimes she almost c o u l d not do t h i s . At other times the very d e l i b e r a t e n e s s , the seeming a r b i t r a r i n e s s , of what she was doing, the way she was l i v i n g , e x h i l e r a t e d her. (pp. 36-7) 153 Since e r o t i c love i n MOONS i s almost l i k e demonic p o s s e s s i o n , l i f e beyond menopause, although somewhat a r i d , has i t s compensations f o r L y d i a , as i t has f o r Roberta i n "Labor Day Dinner": But Roberta has the i d e a t h a t , much as she l i k e s them both and wishes them w e l l , love i s r e a l l y something V a l e r i e c o u l d do without being reminded o f . In V a l e r i e ' s company you do wonder sometimes what a l l the fuss i s about. V a l e r i e wonders. Her l i f e and her presence, more than any o p i n i o n she expresses, remind you t h a t love i s not k i n d or honest and does not c o n t r i b u t e to happiness i n any r e l i a b l e way. (p. 140) A c c o r d i n g to t h i s view, a woman's pa s s i o n has l i t t l e to do w i t h her a f f e c t i o n , and i s a b a r r i e r to other achievements. In l o v e , Roberta becomes enervated; whereas without a l o v e r , her widowed f r i e n d V a l e r i e d i s c o v e r s new energy, e n a b l i n g her to s i n g l e h a n d e d l y t u r n her summer home i n t o the s e t t i n g people have i n mind when they speak l o n g i n g l y of "a house i n the country" (p. 141) . V a l e r i e i s f o r t u n a t e i n having the r e s o u r c e s to c r e a t e a l i f e f o r h e r s e l f when her l i f e w ith a man i s ended by h i s death; other women, o l d e r and f r a i l e r than V a l e r i e , are l e f t with damaged p r i d e and the pretense t h a t t h e r e i s s t i l l some p o i n t to t h e i r l i v e s : Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Kidd used to p l a y cards i n the R e c r e a t i o n Room every a f t e r n o o n . They put on e a r r i n g s , s t o c k i n g s , a f t e r n o o n d r e s s e s . They took turns t r e a t i n g f o r t e a . On the whole these afternoons were p l e a s a n t , (p. 165) The two o l d women c l i n g to t h e i r custom of d r e s s i n g up i n the afternoons because i t i s one of the few c o m f o r t i n g 154 r i t u a l s s t i l l p o s s i b l e i n the n u r s i n g home. L i k e s e v e r a l other women c h a r a c t e r s i n MOONS, they use c l o t h e s to b o l s t e r t h e i r p r i d e or d i s t r a c t themselves from a n x i e t y and g r i e f . In "Connection" too, the n a r r a t o r remembers her mother wearing a secondhand s i l k j e r s e y a f t e r n o o n dress a c q u i r e d from a r e l a t i v e , and r e c a l l s how the ample c o r s e t t e d f i g u r e s of women of t h a t g e n e r a t i o n proclaimed t h e i r r i g h t s and powers. In "Bardon Bus", however, buying c l o t h e s becomes an ob s e s s i o n : I've become f e v e r i s h l y preoccupied with c l o t h e s . . . . I'm h a l f convinced t h a t a more a r t f u l getup would have made a more powerful impression, more dramatic c l o t h e s might have made me l e s s d i s c a r d a b l e . I have f a n c i e s of meeting X unexpectedly a t a p a r t y or on a Toronto s t r e e t , d e v a s t a t i n g him with my a l t e r e d looks and late-blooming splendor, (pp. 124-5) Clothes shopping i s an i r r a t i o n a l response to the l o s s of her l o v e r , a u s e l e s s attempt to present h e r s e l f i n a new and i r r e s i s t a b l e form, even though the man f o r whom t h i s i s done i s not there to see the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n . Simultaneously, shopping a f f o r d s temporary r e l i e f from s u f f e r i n g , j u s t as i t does i n the t i t l e s t o r y , i n which the n a r r a t o r r e c a l l s t r y i n g on c l o t h e s once while she awaited the r e s u l t s of leukemia t e s t s on her l i t t l e g i r l , and again while she waits f o r i t to be time to v i s i t her f a t h e r i n h o s p i t a l a w a i t i n g surgery. The f u t i l i t y of such attempts to escape i n t o a new s e l f by donning a new costume i s suggested by the boy d r e s s i n g up i n women's c l o t h e s i n "Bardon Bus": 155 F i n a l l y everybody i s s a t i s f i e d and a b e a u t i f u l young lady, who i s not a young lady a t a l l , but a p r e t t y boy dressed up as a lady, emerges from the shadow of the m i r r o r . His s m i l i n g face i s tense and tremulous. I remember how when I was ten or eleven years o l d I used to dress up as a b r i d e i n o l d c u r t a i n s , or as a lady i n rouge and a f e a t h e r e d hat. A f t e r a l l the e f f o r t and c o n t r i v i n g and my own enchantment with the f i n i s h e d product there was a c o n s i d e r a b l e letdown. What are you supposed to do now? (p. 126) The i l l u s i o n of change f l e e t i n g l y produced by d r e s s i n g up cannot be s u s t a i n e d . T y p i c a l l y , the costume chosen r e v e a l s hidden aspects of the wearer, e n a b l i n g Munro to show, f o r i n s t a n c e , the d e v e l o p i n g s e x u a l i t y of the a d o l e s c e n t Angela i n "Labor Day Dinner": As f o r Angela and Eve, they are d r a m a t i c a l l y arrayed i n o u t f i t s c o n t r i v e d from a box of o l d c u r t a i n s found i n the u p s t a i r s of George's house. Angela wears emerald-green damask with long, sun-faded s t r i p e s , draped so as to leave one golden shoulder bare. . . . Angela i s t a l l and f a i r - h a i r e d , and embarrassed by her r e c e n t l y a c q u i r e d beauty. She w i l l go to g r e a t t r o u b l e to f l a u n t i t , as she does now, and then w i l l redden and frown and look s t u b b o r n l y a f f r o n t e d when somebody t e l l s her she looks l i k e a goddess, (p. 135) C l e a r l y , Angela i s t r y i n g on the goddess r o l e when she appears a t d i n n e r i n t h i s costume, j u s t as she t r i e s out her charms on David: "Angela i s t r y i n g out her powers; she w i l l t r y them out even on a c o u s i n she has known s i n c e she was a c h i l d " (p. 156). She i s too young to be ready to enter a sexual r e l a t i o n s h i p , but prepares f o r t h i s coming phase by p r a c t i s i n g on David, who i s s a f e l y beyond her reach. 156 In her j o u r n a l too, Angela t r i e s on a r o l e f o r which she i s s t i l l too young, t h a t of c r i t i c of her mother's behaviour s i n c e l i v i n g with George: "I have seen her change," Angela has w r i t t e n i n her j o u r n a l , "from a person I deeply r e s p e c t e d i n t o a person on the verge of being a nervous wreck. I f t h i s i s love I want no p a r t of i t . He wants to enslave her and us a l l and she walks a t i g h t r o p e t r y i n g to keep him from g e t t i n g mad." (p. 147) S u b t l y , Angela's j o u r n a l r e i n f o r c e s the n a r r a t o r ' s account of Roberta's d e c l i n i n g s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e and growing d e s p e r a t i o n . "Labor Day Dinner" uses b r i e f l i t e r a r y r e f e r e n c e s to r e f l e c t c h a r a c t e r and to e l a b o r a t e the theme of feminine weakness and dependence upon men. When the h o s t e s s ' s daughter g r e e t s Eva, who i s dressed up i n a costume made of l a c e c u r t a i n s , she says, "I know who Eva i s . She's the Br i d e of Lammermoor" (p. 138). Thus, she p l a c e s Eva i n the romantic context of S i r Walter S c o t t . The unfortunate heroine of THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR i s the pawn i n a f a m i l y o s t r u g g l e f o r power. The S c o t t r e f e r e n c e a c t s as a g l o s s on the s i m i l a r circumstances of the mother and her two daughters i n "Labor Day Dinner" because they depend upon the good w i l l of the man chosen by the mother. Furthermore, book t i t l e s l i s t e d i n Angela's summer re a d i n g l i s t r e f l e c t her confused s t a t e of mind, p o i s e d as she i s between c h i l d h o o d and adolescence. Her r e a d i n g mixes romance and r e a l i s m , c h i l d r e n ' s and a d u l t l i t e r a t u r e . I t s c o n t r a s t s 157 r e v e a l the wide extent of her search f o r feminine models to emulate: During the summer Angela has spent a l o t of time r e a d i n g . She has read ANNA KARENINA, THE SECOND SEX, EMILY OF NEW MOON, THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF W.B. YEATS, THE HAPPY HOOKER, THE ACT OF CREATION, SEVEN GOTHIC TALES. Some of these, to be a c c u r a t e , she has not read a l l the way through, (p. 148) Thi s book l i s t c o u l d belong to many of the women i n MOONS a t Angela's age. A g a i n s t t h e i r b e t t e r judgement, they are a t t r a c t e d to romantic views of women suggested by the p o e t i c t r a d i t i o n of THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY'and Yeats's d e v o t i o n to h i s beloved Maud Gonne. ANNA KARENINA and SEVEN GOTHIC TALES r e f l e c t a European past t h a t i s remote from the experience of a young Canadian g i r l , but e x e r t s a powerful a t t r a c t i o n , n e v e r t h e l e s s . The i n c l u s i o n of L.M. Montgomery's EMILY OF NEW MOON i s a r a r e i n s t a n c e of Munro's r e f e r r i n g to a Canadian, r a t h e r han an E n g l i s h , American or European work. F i r s t p u b l i s h e d i n 1923, EMILY OF NEW MOON i s an enduring c h i l d r e n ' s novel about an orphan r a i s e d by maiden aunts on a P r i n c e Edward 9 I s l a n d farm. I t s heroine i s an a s p i r i n g poet, i n some ways a f o r e r u n n e r of Del Jordan i n ambition and i n c l i n a t i o n ; t h e r e f o r e Munro's comments on EMILY OF NEW MOON i n her re c e n t i n t e r v i e w with Tim S t r u t h e r s shed new l i g h t on her own c o n c e p t i o n of the r o l e of the a r t i s t i n Canadian s o c i e t y . Munro acknowledges Montgomery's novel as an e a r l y 158 f a v o r i t e which s t i l l i n t e r e s t s her, and about which she would someday l i k e to w r i t e : I f e e l i n t h a t book she was g e t t i n g very c l o s e to the book she should have w r i t t e n and never d i d w r i t e . There's a r e a l sense of brooding and menace and even h o r r o r i n th a t book which she j u s t does not permit h e r s e l f i n a book l i k e ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. They're a b i t l i k e TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. You know how i n TOM SAWYER e v e r y t h i n g i s s o r t of popular-entertainment l e v e l , and i n HUCKLEBERRY FINN we get down to some r e a l s t u f f . W e l l , EMILY OF NEW MOON i s a b i t l i k e that . 10 Munro r e v e a l s her f a s c i n a t i o n with the dark s i d e of e x i s t e n c e which she c o n s i d e r s i n d i s p e n s a b l e i n a work of a r t . She b e l i e v e s t h a t w i l l i n g n e s s to face t h i s darkness d i s t i n g u i s h e s the s e r i o u s from the popular a r t i s t . Although she sympathizes with Montgomery's r e l u c t a n c e to break the p o l i t e conventions of her time, she i s convinced t h a t her t i m i d i t y kept her from becoming a f i r s t - r a t e n o v e l i s t . N e v e r t h e l e s s , by r e f e r r i n g to EMILY OF NEW MOON, Munro pays t r i b u t e to L.M. Montgomery's i n f l u e n c e on her, and sim u l t a n e o u s l y i n s i n u a t e s another moon i n t o her own imagery of J u p i t e r ' s moons by means of the t i t l e , EMILY OF NEW MOON. By the end of "Labor Day Dinner" the moon has become a dominating presence i n f l u e n c i n g a l l t h e i r l i v e s . The speeding car which narrowly escapes c r a s h i n g i n t o the car i n which Roberta, her daughters and her l o v e r are t r a v e l l i n g , i s being d r i v e n without l i g h t s . The d r i v e r , r e t u r n i n g from a d r i n k i n g p a r t y , "sees the road by the l i g h t of the moon" (p. 158). Before t h e i r narrow escape, Roberta p o i n t s out 159 the gibbous moon and r e c a l l s how she taught George the meaning of the word, gibbous, a term f o r the moon when i t i s more than h a l f f u l l . The gibbous moon not o n l y i s an a p p r o p r i a t e f i g u r e f o r the middle-aged Roberta, but a l s o , as a l a t e r phase of the new moon, i s a c o n t i n u a t i o n and e x t e n s i o n of the r e f e r e n c e to L. M. Montgomery. Thus, even a s i n g l e item i n a book l i s t does double duty, y e t the symbolism i s never s t r a i n e d . Correspondences are suggested r a t h e r than f o r c e d upon the re a d e r . The author does not attempt to persuade her audience t h a t o l d s t o r i e s c a s t l i g h t on new, but she s t r u c t u r e s her work a c c o r d i n g to t h i s p r i n c i p l e . The s c a f f o l d i n g i s f i r m l y i n p l a c e , but f u n c t i o n s without c a l l i n g a t t e n t i o n to i t s e l f . For example, without b o t h e r i n g to t r a c e the source of the fragment of verse quoted by the f a t h e r i n "The Moons of J u p i t e r " the reader can s t i l l grasp i t s g e n e r a l s i g n i f i c a n c e from the l i n e s alone: "'Behind him l a y the gray Azores,/Behind the Gates of H e r c u l e s ; / B e f o r e him not the ghost of shores,/Before him o n l y s h o r e l e s s seas'" (p. 225). A man f a c i n g a dangerous o p e r a t i o n would be l i k e l y to have h i s mind f i x e d on l i n e s which repeat the words "behind" and "b e f o r e " , and c o n t r a s t past accomplishment with f u t u r e u n c e r t a i n t y . The poem a f f o r d s s e v e r a l other p a r a l l e l s too. I t s t i t l e , unstated i n the s t o r y , i s "Columbus", which connects i t with the i d e a of the New World and of a voyage of d i s c o v e r y , both f a m i l i a r metaphors of death. Moreover, the poem's r e f r a i n , "On, s a i l on!" m i r r o r s the f a t h e r ' s 160 1 1 f o r t i t u d e . With her usual r e s t r a i n t , Munro provi d e s the fragment of verse to r e f l e c t the f a t h e r ' s s i t u a t i o n and leaves e x p l a n a t i o n s to the c r i t i c . With the same s u b t l e t y , the work's c o n t r o l l i n g metaphor of J u p i t e r and the moons i s in t r o d u c e d through a seemingly d e s u l t o r y c o n v e r s a t i o n between the n a r r a t o r and her f a t h e r d u r i n g t h e i r l a s t v i s i t i n the h o s p i t a l . A f t e r she d e s c r i b e s the show she has j u s t watched a t the planetarium, they t r y to remember the names of the moons of J u p i t e r , and between them r e c a l l t h a t they are Io, C a l l i s t o , Europa and Ganymede. The correspondence between the power of g r a v i t a t i o n a l a t t r a c t i o n t h a t holds four moons (three females and one male) i n o r b i t around a c e n t r a l male p l a n e t , and the power of sexual a t t r a c t i o n i s i m p l i e d r a t h e r than s t a t e d : "Io and Europa, they were g i r l f r i e n d s of J u p i t e r ' s , weren't they?" (p. 233). Munro provi d e s the l i n k by means of the f a t h e r ' s c o l l o q u i a l term " g i r l f r i e n d " , thereby condensing two s t o r i e s of the god's amorous p u r s u i t s i n t o one modern e p i t h e t . In r e c e n t usage, g i r l f r i e n d has overtones of a sexual r e l a t i o n s h i p , as shown p r e v i o u s l y i n "Dulse", through the l i s t of Duncan's d i s c a r d e d l o v e r s : "Duncan spoke about h i s former g i r l f r i e n d s . E f f i c i e n t Ruth, p e r t Judy, v i v a c i o u s Diane, e l e g a n t D e l o r e s , w i f e l y Maxine . . ." (p. 52). Men l i k e Duncan or Alex i n "Bardon Bus" resemble J u p i t e r i n t h e i r commitment to the chase, t h e i r l o s s of i n t e r e s t i n a woman once they have captured her. For t h e i r p a r t , women l i k e L y d i a i n "Dulse", Prue, or the n a r r a t o r of "Bardon Bus" 161 c l i n g to t h e i r l o v e r s as Juno clu n g to J u p i t e r , hoping to r e k i n d l e the dead embers of p a s s i o n i n men who have abandoned them, and j e a l o u s of the women who have d i s p l a c e d them. Yet none of these p a r a l l e l s between the Greek myths and Munro 1s men and women are s p e l l e d out. In t h i s r e s p e c t , Munro's method i s more l i k e a l y r i c poet's than a prose f i c t i o n w r i t e r ' s : she c r e a t e s her image and allows i t to speak f o r i t s e l f . U n d e r l y i n g MOONS i s a conception of memory which takes i n t o account i t s p e c u l i a r power to make r e c o l l e c t e d s t o r i e s resemble r e c o l l e c t e d e x p e r i e n c e . The o r g a n i z i n g , t r a n s f o r m i n g process of remembering b r i n g s the two c l o s e t o g e t h e r . Having d i s c o v e r e d t h a t memories of s t o r i e s can be as i n t e n s e as memories of exp e r i e n c e s , and t h a t the a s s o c i a t i v e process of r e c o l l e c t i o n combines events and l i t e r a t u r e i n i t s search f o r meaning i n past ex p e r i e n c e , Munro i s able to reproduce the semblance of a l i t e r a t e , middle-aged n a r r a t o r ' s remembering v o i c e . The emphasis on l i t e r a r y r e c o l l e c t i o n s of t h i s volume, i n c o n t r a s t to the f a m i l y anecdotes of e a r l i e r c o l l e c t i o n s , s u i t s t h i s group of c h a r a c t e r s , most of whom are re a d e r s , and some of whom are w r i t e r s as w e l l . As Munro 1s p r o t a g o n i s t s change from a pre-war r u r a l g e n e r a t i o n with a h i g h - s c h o o l education to a post-war urban g e n e r a t i o n with a u n i v e r s i t y e d u c a t i o n , they see t h e i r l i v e s a g a i n s t a background d e r i v e d not onl y from f a m i l y t r a d i t i o n , but a l s o from l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n . The l i t e r a r y i n f l u e n c e i s 162 s t r o n g e s t on those who are attempting to c a s t o f f i n h e r i t e d v a l u e s and forge new, l e s s r e s t r i c t e d l i v e s than t h e i r p a r e n t s . Not s u r p r i s i n g l y then, given her f a i t h i n progress and her lon g i n g f o r self-improvement, Ada Jordan i n LIVES i s the o u t s t a n d i n g i n s t a n c e of a c h a r a c t e r i n Munro's e a r l y work f o r whom l i t e r a r y r e f e r e n c e s are pr o v i d e d . Ada's Tennysonian pen name, P r i n c e s s Ida, adds an important element to her c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n . Having r e j e c t e d her mother's dogmatic r e l i g i o u s f a i t h , Ada has turned to s e c u l a r w r i t i n g i n search of i d e a l s . The d i f f e r e n c e between Ada and the women Munro d e s c r i b e s i n MOONS i s t h a t t h e i r f a i t h i n progress has d e c l i n e d and they q u e s t i o n the t r u t h of s e c u l a r w r i t i n g as determinedly as Ada once questioned the t r u t h of r e l i g i o u s g o s p e l . L i t e r a r y r e f e r e n c e s add another l a y e r t o Munro 1s r e c e n t w r i t i n g , but i t i s a l a y e r which does not tend to f i x c h a r a c t e r by showing a mind s e t i n c e r t a i n l i n e s . On the c o n t r a r y , l i t e r a r y r e f e r e n c e s add a l a y e r of ambiguity, r a i s i n g doubts about the extent to which c h a r a c t e r s understand t h e i r own behaviour, as w e l l as doubts about the extent to which the w r i t t e n word can embody the t r u t h . 163 Notes 1 A l i c e Munro, THE MOONS OF JUPITER: STORIES BY ALICE MUNRO (Toronto: Macmillan, 1982). A l l subsequent r e f e r e n c e s appear i n the t e x t . 2 S i r Walter R a l e i g h , "Written the n i g h t b e f o r e h i s death. Found i n h i s B i b l e i n the Gate-house a t Westminster," (1618; r p t . London: B l a c k i e , n.d.) p. 370. 3 X a v i e r a H o l l a n d e r , THE HAPPY HOOKER (New York: D e l , 1972). 4 Char l e s L o u i s II Montesquieu, THE PERSIAN LETTERS: WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, NOW COMPLETELY DONE INTO ENGLISH FROM THE ORIGINAL BY MONTESQUIEU (London: Athenaeum, 1897), p. 15. 5 W i l l a Cather, A LOST LADY (1923; r p t . Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1938), p. 120. 6 W i l l i a m Stevenson, GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE, Act I I , Song. (c. 1562; r p t . London: Gib b i n g s , 1906), p. 14. 7 Suzanne Langer, FEELING AND FORM (New York: Charles S c r i b n e r ' s Sons, 1953), p. 242. 8 S i r Walter S c o t t , THE BRIDE OF LAMERMOOR, (1819; r p t . London: Dent, 1906). 9 L.M. Montgomery, EMILY OF NEW MOON, (Toronto: M c C l e l l a n d & Stewart,1923). 10 J . R. (Tim) S t r u t h e r s , "The Real M a t e r i a l : An Interview with A l i c e Munro," i n PROBABLE FICTIONS, ed. Lou i s K. MacKendrick (Toronto: ECW Press, 1983) , p. 18. 11 J o a c h i n M i l l e r , "Columbus," i n BEST LOVED STORY POEMS (Garden C i t y , N.Y.: Halcyon House, 1949), p. 310. 164 C o n c l u s i o n In A l i c e Munro's f i c t i o n , s t o r i e s t h a t are mentioned or t o l d p r o v i d e i r o n i c commentary on'her c h a r a c t e r s ' e x p e r i e n c e s . By adding r i v a l viewpoints to t h a t of her n a r r a t o r s , they r e f l e c t the complexity and ambiguity found i n d a i l y l i f e and a l l o w Munro to avoi d f i n a l l y having to s e t t l e f o r o n l y one v e r s i o n of the t r u t h . Thus, they counter the s t r o n g sense of c l o s u r e t h a t the s h o r t s t o r y form tends to impose, the neat r o u n d i n g - o f f t h a t i s so u n l i k e l i f e . Munro makes o r a l s t o r i e s and s t o r i e s i n books as commonplace i n her c h a r a c t e r s ' l i v e s as work and meals. She shows the i n f l u e n c e s t o r i e s e x e r t throughout l i f e , but e s p e c i a l l y i n c h i l d h o o d . Since the c h i l d r e n and teenagers i n DANCE and LIVES are preoccupied with understanding themselves and the people around them, s t o r i e s are of paramount importance i n molding t h e i r p e r s o n a l i t i e s . T y p i c a l l y , c h i l d r e n a t t r i b u t e a l l e g o r i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e to every anecdote, f a i r y t a l e and legend they are t o l d . They i d e n t i f y with the heroes and heroines of s t o r i e s , and o f t e n cannot d i s t i n g u i s h between s t o r i e s and r e a l i t y . F r e q u e n t l y , Munro's p r o t a g o n i s t s are g i r l s who are determined to escape the l i m i t a t i o n s of a p r o v i n c i a l u p b r i n g i n g and enter a wider world. They r e j e c t not only t h e i r g e o g r a p h i c a l i s o l a t i o n i n a small community, but a l s o t h e i r i n t e l l e c t u a l i s o l a t i o n . T h e i r f i r s t s tep toward departure i s to c o n s t r u c t an i d e n t i t y which i s as d i f f e r e n t as p o s s i b l e from t h a t of 165 t h e i r mothers. Searching f o r models of a d u l t women to emulate, they r e l y on o r a l s t o r i e s or s t o r i e s from t h e i r r e a d i n g to supplement t h e i r l i m i t e d e x perience. Romantic s t o r i e s abound i n the l i t e r a t u r e to which they have access, and d i s t o r t t h e i r t h i n k i n g by r a i s i n g f a l s e e x p e c t a t i o n s or encouraging them to wait p a s s i v e l y to be rescued by a male hero. In two of Munro's works (LIVES and WHO) an a r t i s t - p r o t a g o n i s t widens the scope of s t o r y r e f e r e n c e s . Not o n l y does the young a r t i s t — D e l or R o s e — t e l l s t o r i e s , but a l s o she r e f l e c t s upon them, wondering to what extent they d i s t o r t the t r u t h by l e a v i n g out s i g n i f i c a n t d e t a i l s . One work, WHO, i s preoccupied with s t o r i e s about aspects of e x i s t e n c e u s u a l l y l e f t out of l i t e r a t u r e , s t o r i e s which dwell on poverty as a c o n d i t i o n i n which the squalor of human l i f e dominates. Munro i m p l i e s t h a t t h i s world, one of s o i l e d laundry, t o i l e t s and p h y s i c a l v i o l e n c e , i s e s p e c i a l l y f a m i l i a r to women because they are o f t e n f o r c e d to perform clean-up tasks and endure b e a t i n g s . A l s o s i g n i f i c a n t to women are s t o r i e s which r e f l e c t the n a t u r a l c y c l e s of female l i f e . MOONS looks at aspects of women's l i v e s which change l i t t l e from one ge n e r a t i o n to the next, examining the extent of t h e i r dependence upon men, and showing how they continue to need men d e s p i t e g r e a t e r p o s s i b i l i t i e s f o r female independence than e x i s t e d i n t h e i r mothers' day. The many s t o r i e s t h a t Munro's c h a r a c t e r s t e l l are the s m a l l e s t u n i t s of a Chinese Box s t r u c t u r e . They are 166 encl o s e d by Munro's s h o r t s t o r i e s , which are themselves i n s i d e a l a r g e r box, the s t o r y c y c l e . Beyond i t , the reader can d i s c e r n the o u t l i n e s of y e t another e n c l o s u r e , a myth which i s i m p l i e d but not r e t o l d i n d e t a i l or even c l o s e l y f o l l o w e d . I t serves r a t h e r as a context f o r Munro's own s t o r y , or a g l o s s on i t . In DANCE, the my t h i c a l f i g u r e of Orpheus i s invoked by the t i t l e s t o r y . In WHO, i t i s the T r i p l e Goddess, and i n MOONS, the god, J u p i t e r . LIVES uses Tennyson's poems as a frame of r e f e r e n c e f o r Del and Ada Jordan, thus a l t e r i n g the c l a s s i c a l r e f e r e n c e p a t t e r n more common i n Munro's f i c t i o n . The most r a d i c a l d eparture, however, i s i n SOMETHING. In t h i s work, Munro performs her highwire a c t without the s a f e t y net of an in f o r m i n g myth. The omission i s a p p r o p r i a t e s i n c e the s u b j e c t of SOMETHING i s s t o r y t e l l i n g i t s e l f . T h i s work t e s t s the boundaries of n a r r a t i v e by experimenting with p o i n t - o f - v i e w and q u e s t i o n i n g i t s own n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g i e s . Yet, i t i s more s t r i c t l y c o n tained w i t h i n those boundaries than any of Munro's other c y c l e s . I t does not reach o u t s i d e i t s e l f to c a t c h the s t r i n g s of myth. The s t r u c t u r a l s i g n i f i c a n c e of s t o r i e s i n Munro's f i c t i o n i s f a r - r e a c h i n g . The n a r r a t o r s c l a i m s t o r y t e l l i n g as a mode of thought n a t u r a l to women and s t r i v e to develop a feminine way of w r i t i n g f i c t i o n which r e j e c t s a u t h o r i a l c o n t r i v a n c e i n f a v o r of submission to a process of d i s c o v e r y . F i n a l l y , by her constant r e f e r e n c e s to s t o r i e s , Munro d e c l a r e s her b e l i e f t h a t man i s a s t o r y t e l l i n g animal. 167 Of a l l the t o o l s t h a t he has y e t d e v i s e d , words are the most important. They are the l i n k s j o i n i n g c h a r a c t e r s to one another and the p a s t . By t e l l i n g t h e i r s t o r i e s , p u t t i n g them i n t o words, her c h a r a c t e r s attempt to g a i n c o n t r o l over t h e i r l i v e s . Outwardly, t h e i r l i v e s are o f t e n unhappy, t h e i r hopes f r u s t r a t e d . But t h e i r i n n e r l i v e s , the memories and l i f e s t o r i e s t h a t they have c o n s t r u c t e d , redeem t h e i r f a i l u r e s , making a c t u a l events seem mere appearance and t h e i r i n n e r l i v e s the t r u e r e a l i t y . Munro's c h a r a c t e r s s u r v i v e by making up t h e i r own f i c t i o n s t h a t excuse, e x p l a i n , and f o r g i v e t h e i r l i m i t a t i o n s and f a i l u r e s . 168 B i b l i o g r a p h y Primary Sources A l i c e Munro, DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968. . LIVES Of GIRLS AND WOMEN. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1971. . THE MOONS OF JUPITER: STORIES BY ALICE MUNRO. Toronto: Macmillan, 1982. . SOMETHING.I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1974. . WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Toronto: Macmillan, 1978. Secondary Sources A l l e n , Walter. THE SHORT STORY IN ENGLISH. Oxford: Clarendon, 1981. Atwood, Margaret. 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