Meneseteung by Alice Munro: Glorification of Almeda Roth

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The narrator of Alice Munro’s short story “Meneseteung” wants to glorify the fictional late 19th century poet, Almeda Roth. Her motivation lies in that little is known of Roth except where she lived and some family history both detailed in the preface of Roth’s “Offerings”, a collection of Roth’s poems, and even if there was some information, not much is specified “Meneseteung”. There is something said about her in the Vidette, the local paper in the town where Roth lived. The article reads, “April 22, 1903. At her residence, on Tuesday last, between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, there passed away a lady of talent and refinement whose pen, in days gone by, enriched our local literature with a volume of sensitive, eloquent verse” (71). It’s an obituary, and it goes on to say more of Roth’s poetry and Roth herself in her final days. Yet a preface in a book and an obituary can only say so much about a person’s life. There is no biographical story of the life of Almeda Roth, so the narrator will create one. In “Meneseteung”, every part opens up with a verse of Almeda’s poetry. The verse usually coincides with the story or it sets the tone for the part and this setting the tone only glorifies Roth’s poetry even more. In Part III it begins with the verse, “Here where the river meets the inland sea, spreading her blue skirts from the solemn wood, I think of birds and beasts and vanished men whose pointed dwellings on these pale sands stood” (57). In Part III Jarvis Poulter is introduced and makes advances to Almeda as they get to know each other. This is where the line “Here where the river meets the inland sea” fits in as the two main characters in this story meet. Almeda then thinks about the rumors circulating around town and the gossipy entries in the Vidette that Jarvis and her are courting, which coincides with the line “Spreading her blue skirts from the solemn wood”, by which “spreading her blue skirt” means being flirtatious, though, in a coy...
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