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Alice Munro Essay

1377 words - 6 pages

Alice Munro was born and raised in Sowesto, a small Canadian town, which directly influenced her success in writing. In small towns such as Sowesto, a woman’s place in society was to stay home and cook, clean, and raise children. If a woman did have a job, it typically was simple such as school teaching, writing for a newspaper, or piano playing. Another challenge facing Munro--and others who wished to pursue writing--was the lack of authenticity of Canadian writing. Wishing to be successful writer on a worldly platform was something to be laughed at not only because publishers in Canada were few and far between but in general, works from Great Britain and USA were what people ...view middle of the document...

Alice Munro took notes on every bit of her surroundings in order to make her stories more genuine. Munro is quoted saying:
“I would try to make lists. A list of all the stores and businesses going up and down the main street and who owned them, a list of family names, names on the tombstones in the cemetery and any inscriptions underneath… And no list could hold what I wanted, for what I wanted was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together - radiant, everlasting.”
Her words echo what critics and readers have believed to be the source of the majority of the material in her stories. She takes small bits of reality and changes them just enough to be unique to her story, but still similar enough for people to recognize pieces of her story in their own lives. For example, Munro would take an old lady who owns a ceramic elephant that lived down her street in real life and changes it to be an old lady who owns a ceramic giraffe. By taking chunks of real-life and modifying them to fit in her own story, Munro is able to create realistic characters with real stories and backbones which makes her stories not only have a unique style but also make them relatable to almost anyone’s life.
Characters in Munro’s stories typically exhibit “dreariness of spirit,” a characteristic that makes them more realistic. The entire concept is almost a double negative. Characters are punished for not succeeding but also for succeeding.In the Moons of Jupiter the narrator says:
“I could hear him saying, Well, I didn't see anything about you in Maclean's. And if he had read something about me, he would say, Well, I didn't think too much of that write-up. His tone would be humorous and indulgent but would produce in me a familiar dreariness of spirit. The message I got from him was simple: fame must be striven for, then apologised for. Getting or not getting it, you will be to blame.”
This is the greatest example of dreariness of spirit, mostly due to the fact of it addresses it directly and offers a clear description of what it is. But success is not the only aspect of dreariness of spirit, her characters also struggle with how they should behave. They struggle between doing good deeds and being considered a good person-yet smothered spiritually-or being considered a ‘bad’ person who feels alive. Munro’s characters usually choose to be considered a bad person in the eyes of others but feel alive on their own terms. Honesty is also an essential element in Munro’s work and in the concept of dreariness of spirit. Nearly all her characters feel that they must possess honesty or they are useless, thus they work to discover and live an honest life. Characters in Munro’s works also struggle between being good or bad in their private behavior as well....

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