Alice Munro's collection of short stories in Open Secrets is one example of her focus on women, ordinary women, and the lives they experience and lead. Her stories present us with characters that think, feel, and develop in normal, as well as abnormal, situations. In the following discussion we focus on two of her short stories from Open Secrets, and confer the characters and their development. The stories chosen for examination are "Open Secrets" and "Vandals." Each of them will be discussed individually. Both of the short stories will be presented a discussion and summary concerning the characters and their development.
In the title story, 'Open Secrets,' a teenage girl out on a hike with the Canadian Girls in Training disappears. The story is described from Maureen Stephen's point-of-view, a young woman married to a much older man, a reputable lawyer in town who has speech problem and is recovering from a stroke.
Maureen is a woman apparently obsessed by what may have happened to the girl, and a woman whose own positions in life mirror that happening. She examines the conditions of what happened, or what may have happened, to this young girl, and finds herself examining her own life as a result. "Sometimes when she is just going to sleep but not quite asleep, not dreaming yet, she has caught something. Or even in the daytime during what she thinks of as her normal life. She might catch herself sitting on stone steps eating cherries and watching a man coming up the steps carrying a parcel. She has never seen those steps or that man, but for an instant they seem to be part of another life that she is leading, a life just as long and complicated and strange and dull as this one (Pp 184). After reading the passage we can see that Maureen is a young woman who is intelligent and introspective. She is
not merely moving through life blind, but a woman who is probing her present position in life and looking at the future that may well be her life.
Furthermore, She examines and analyzes life and death. For example, in one particular scene we see her looking out a window at a wall of trees along the river. She is an introspective mood and "She could imagine vanishing. But of course you didn't vanish, and there was always the other person on a path to intersect yours and his head was full of plans for you even before you met" (Pp 162). She might be referring to the town's suspicion that the missing girl met her doom at the hands of a man in the woods. Obviously, this part resonates with far deeper metaphorical implication; we cannot separate this woman's musings on foul play from our perception that she is living a life she was steered toward and does not necessarily accept as truly hers. In this is it's incredibly, if not painfully, obvious that Maureen is a woman who is focused on developing, or understanding her life and her position in her life.
Also, from the short stories in Open Secret, Munro seems never forces any of her characters to make a larger point; she seems to respect them and the inherent complexity of their story far too much for that. While they develop they are also merely living, in a manner that is experienced by normal individuals. They nurture, grow, they discover, and learn, but the growth and development is not all-inclusive, and does not leave us with a powerful ending, but rather a powerful thought process that will continue after the story is over.
The final scenes in the story: "Maureen is a young woman yet, though she doesn't think so, and she has life ahead of her. First a death - that will come soon - then another marriage, new places and houses. In kitchens hundreds and thousands of miles away, she'll watch the soft
skin form on the back of a wooden spoon and her memory will twitch, but it will not quite reveal to her this moment when she seems to be looking into an open secret, something not startling until you think of trying to tell it" (PP 186). In this we can...
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