Alice Munro's Short Stories and Landscape

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Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Confusion
A large part of Alice Munro’s life is her connection to Canada, thus much of her work goes into great detail to share the experience of it with her characters and her readers. She both explains the feelings aroused from the environment and metaphorically transports the reader into the story. Critics consequently argue various theories concerning the means by which Munro conveys the landscape and the significance of it. Three critics that analyze Munro's landscape each reveal separate understandings of how the setting comes across to the reader. Lorraine Mary York, Beverly Rasporich, and Andrew Stubb challenge different perspectives, but ultimately all three ways of interpreting Munro’s landscape offer valuable insight toward fully comprehending the short stories. In Munro’s short stories her attention to detail depicted in the setting jointly refract the characters’ innermost feelings, as well as immerse the reader inside the story in a photographic and paradoxical way. In Munro’s description of the setting, York informs us how Munro communicates it in such a way that it is as if the reader is looking at a photograph. Although York is not the first to mention that Munro’s work does this, she explains it in a way that draws on the commentary of Munro herself, and of the evidence within Munro’s short stories. She looks at the stories of Munro as each having a specific type of photographic style whether it is: realist, super-realist, or visionary and examines compared to actual pictures and their photographer. While this approach perceives Munro to be an artist when writing, Rasporich understands her landscape and setting to be less a piece of art and more an expression of the emotions unraveling at the moment. This theorist forgoes the photographic approach to explain that the “landscape imagery is a metaphor for the actual situation”(Dance, 133). Lastly, Stubbs states that in looking at Munro’s landscape she juxtaposes reality and fantasy. His argument in a way combines the ideas of the first two theorists. The details as a photographic image that York attests represent the more realist side of the Canadian country and the details as metaphorically implying a greater meaning that Rasporich believes represent the more fanatical side of Stubbs’s claim. Yet, he also adds that in Munro’s writing she become the architect of the environment and thus has to take what is actually present in the landscape and synthesize it with what is hidden. With these ideas in mind, let us look at Munro’s short stories: “Runaway” and “ The Love of a Good Woman” in order to better understand the significance of setting, and the ways in which it affects the reader. Beginning with “Runaway” Munro uses the weather and seasons described in the setting as a tool to parallel the relationship of the couple Clark and Carla and to create the principal mood. Prior to realizing the relationship between the two, Munro invents the summer as “the summer of rain and more rain. The trails were deep in mud, the long grass soaking, leaves overhead sending down random showers even in those moments when there was no actual downpour from the sky” (Runaway, 1). To interpret Munro’s revelation of the weather and season in regards to York, the realistic image portrayed is as if looking at a picture and while looking at the picture the viewer lists all the minute details they see in the picture. With each additional detail the setting becomes more of a definite place, rather than simply a fictional location. The reader then mentally steps into the story. Munro engages the reader with this unfolding image that the reader can become involved with and relate to. The feeling of water falling off leaves and onto his/her clothing after a storm cleared or watching it happen from a window is a mundane and probable incident. Therefore, exploring Munro’s setting in regards to York establishes a separate awareness of...
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