Throughout life there is always one person who influences you, impacts your decisions and aids you in your struggle for identity. It is of no importance whether or not that person is male or female, friend or family, younger or older. In the story The Red Dress by Alice Munro, the character Mary Fortune represents this individual; this influence. The main character in the narrative, who remains nameless, is only able to discover herself through the help of another. Mary Fortune instilled a sense of confidence in the main character by presenting her a path that lead away from the majority.
The girl experiences a profound life altering change in the story. At the beginning of the story the girl is portrayed as an unsocial, insecure individual and an outcast in society. She fails to interact with any characters in the story, even those closest to her, (i.e. her mother, her peers, and her best friend). She is unable to express any emotion or opinion on any subject matter, even when it directly concerned her. Her lack of self-confidence and self-esteem holds her back from living life they way she pleases, forcing her to live a life others think best for her.
An example of when she lives a life defined by others is with the red dress her mother is making for her. The girl hates the red dress but does not express her sentiments to her mother. Her mother always wanted a red dress made for her as a young girl, and therefore assumes it was what her daughter, the girl, wished also.
"Now, grown wiser, I wished for dresses like those my friend Lonnie had, bought at Beale's store."
From the quotations above, we can conclude that the main character does not wish to wear the red dress. Her lack of confidence and insecurity causes her to follow along with her mother's desires rather than her own. The red dress is a symbol of a life other than her own, depicted by her peers and parents. The main character is trapped in a world of strangers and unhappiness when she wears the red dress. A world foreign from her own desires and views in life. However, the girl never tries to escape this world. She never expresses her difference of opinion and is a slave to the dress and even her own life.
Just as the red dress imprisons the girl, school is another captivation for her. She is at a constant state of unease and paranoia in this environment. Her insecurity that lies within herself forces her to view school as a torture chamber.
"At high school I was never comfortable for a minute...When I had to go to the blackboard I was sure - even at a time of month when this could not be true - that I had blood on my skirt."
Communication is an essential skill in the 21st century. Anyone who does not possess this skill will not be able to get very far. Since the girl finds herself unable to interact with her peers, it is difficult for her to communicate with the rest of society, (i.e. her mother and classmates). The only friend she makes is Lonnie, and even then she finds herself unable to be completely honest and fully communicate with her.
"We had made a pact to tell each other everything. But one thing I did not tell was about this dance, the high school Christmas Dance for which my mother was making me a dress. It was that I did not want to go."
This quotation displays the lack of interaction skills the girl possesses. She cannot convey her feelings to the sole person she trusts. In fact, she is so frightened of confronting and disagreeing with others, she deliberately attempts to sicken and injure herself to escape the distraught situation.
"Formerly I had considered falling off my bicycle and spraining my ankle and I had tried to manage this, as I rode home along the hard-frozen, deeply rutted country roads. But it was too difficult...I started getting out of bed at night and opening my window a little. I knelt down and let the wind, sometimes stinging with snow, rush in around my bared throat. I took off my pajama top. I...
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