The Red Dress Overview

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RED DRESS by Alice Munro

Alice Munro (Canadian writer, famous throughout North America)

THEME: FEMALE ADOLESCENCE
Sub-themes:
Mother-daughter relationship:
o"She was just sitting and waiting for me to come home and tell her everything that had happened. And I would not do it, I never would." (implies that the daughter wished for her own space and felt her mother was too clingy and needy for her attention – failure at being a woman) o"My mother, never satisfied, was sewing a white lace collar on the dress; she had decided it was too grown-up looking." (implies that her mother was kind of "coordinating" her life) •the importance of physical appearance and female self-consciousness – her fear of standing at the blackboard thinking there was a red stain on the back of her clothing – reference to menstruation and the associated “shame”. "I did it up!" "You look like a Zulu. Oh, don't worry. Let me get a comb and I'll do the front in a roll. It'll look all right. It'll even make you look older." I sat in front of the mirror and Lonnie stood behind me, fixing my hair.˝ •Feeling like an outsider:

othe main character - "At high school I was never comfortable for a minute." oMary Fortune - "...he had brought me from Mary fortune's territory into the ordinary world." (implies that Mary didn't fit in the stereotype of society) •social hierarchy and popularity in school

sexuality (sexual competition and questioning of sexuality - heterosexuality, homosexuality) oGoing with Mary Fortune vs the boy who asked her to dance. "I thought that I ought to tell him there was a mistake, that I was just leaving, I was just going to have a hot chocolate with my girl friend. But I did not say anything." (inner conflict with choosing between Mary and the boy – and possibly alludes to finding her sexual preferences) o"Also we read articles on frigidity of the menopause, abortion and why husband seeks satisfaction away from home. When we were not doing schoolwork we were occupied most of the time with the garnering, passing on and discussing of sexual information." •Womanhood

othe mother as a failure of a woman in contrast to the narrator’s construction of woman as sexually attractive. oHer desire for consumerism associated with womanhood: "I had worn these clothes (made by her mother) with docility, even pleasure, in the days when I was unaware of the world's opinion. Now, grown wiser, I wished for dresses like those my friend Lonnie had, bought at Beale's store."

Peer influence/pressure – with Lonnie, Mary Fortune
o"Lonnie was probably not going to be my friend any more, not as much as before anyway. She was what Mary would call boy-crazy." o"I went around the house to the back doors, thinking, I have been to a dance and a boy walked me home and kissed me. It was all true. My life was possible." (although she conforms to the social norm in the end, the tone betrays her need to rationalize these events as success. She does not sound fully satisfied or convinced) oinfluence of Lonnie: "I did it up!" "You look like a Zulu. Oh, don't worry. Let me get a comb and I'll/do the front in a roll. It'll look all right. It'll even make you look older." I sat in front of the mirror and Lonnie stood behind me, fixing my hair.˝

PURPOSE:
To reveal the great social pressures faced by female adolescents and their issues of self-esteem linked to physical appearance and popularity in school •To defend the narrator’s choice either to conform to the social pressures to gain popularity and status or follow Mary Fortune’s independent but difficult path •To investigate sexuality - heterosexuality and homosexuality "I went around the house to the backdoor thinking I have been to a dance and a boy has walked me home and kissed me. It was all true. My life was possible."

SETTING:
1.School
o Society. Has a social hierarchy based on popularity, experience (Age) and associated power. oIs a place where she feels...
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