Name: Lecturer: Course: Date: Lives of girls and women by Alice Munro Overview Published in 1971, Lives of girls and women is a collection of well integrated short stories by the Nobel-prize winning writer Alice Munro (Magdalene and Thacke 196) that chronicles the life of one character, Del Jordan; this cycle of short stories is a bildungsroman genre…
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Every story reveals more about Del’s experiences from being a young, innocent girl to becoming an adult, living with her family that comprises of her parents, younger brother, and Uncle Benny; the work focuses mainly on issues of girls and women, thus the prominence of female characters and its feminist bias (DeFalco 377). In this analysis, I propose that the repeated crises encountered by Del in Alice Munro’s Lives of girls and women, are partial illusions camouflaging a looming decay, and that everyday life is a grand illusion. Structure Dell narrates the stories from a first person’s point of view, and the whole cycle is structured in eight chapters, each detailing a self-contained tale that espouses additional facts concerning Del’s evolving identity. The cycle opens up with a fundamental retrospective focus on Del’s childhood when she is first awakened to the romance of everyday, surrounded by chaotic and eccentric misfits (Awano 91), the likes of Uncle Benny, whose concept of the world was a distorted reflection of reality. From these early experiences, Del learns to focus on the deeper meanings and details of life rather than merely on the shadows and reflections that individual lives often cast as she sharpens her wits and senses for a future career as a writer (McDonald). Through the subsequent chapters, the writer portrays various models of womanhood that come into constant interaction with Del as she grows up, from Naomi, Del’s best friend who lives up to the expected role of ingenue, wife on one end, and her mother Ada who sometimes speaks for ‘the world’ and on others for what “the world” fears and despises. Text Analysis In the first chapter, the Flat Roads, Munro establishes a symbolic geography in which she thoroughly contrasts the town of Jubilee, the epitome of society, sociability, and propriety, from the Flats Road, where drunkenness, sexual looseness, dirty language, haphazard lives, and content ignorance are the norm of everyday (McDonald). Del, still a child, grapples with the assimilation of Munro’s two countries but is yet to encounter the lurking struggle to belong to both worlds and the subsequent inner conflict due to a split personality. The distinctions between the town of Jubilee “the world” and the Flat Roads “the other country” are clear, but Uncle Benny, who represents the “other country,” espouses both a sense of potential for chaos in the world, and a hope for change through ecstatic faith, unlike the garrisons through the allusion of the ark (Monro 27). The title of the chapter suggests Del’s compromise by unconsciously sharing Uncle Benny’s vision yet not forfeiting the security offered through her mother’s ordered perception. Chapter two, titled Heirs of the Living Body, Del herself confronts the dilemma of Munro’s two countries, the Garrison’s world, represented by Del’s two aunts, and Uncle from her father’s side; unlike Uncle Benny, Uncle Craig perceives a reassuring pattern of everyday events. Unlike the disordered setting of the Flat Roads, the garrison world is highly structured that no sense of chaos and potential terror is recognized in Ada’s viewpoint, and Craig’s sisters Elspeth and Grace who are bound in the domestic sphere represent a subtle yet profound aspect of the garrison for they are excellent housekeepers and adept socializers (McDonald). Unlike her mother who embraces directness and
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