Textual Analysis of “Dear Life” by Alice Munro
Alice Munro’s work on ‘Dear Life’ gives readers an experience of various locations, diverse characters, and a series of events that helps to reexamine life. Throughout the short story, the author shares various events and situations from her life in such a manner that the reader travels with the character, search for the missing links and imagine the various encounters. This short story attempts to generalize certain characteristics of other works done by Munro. Munro’s achieves this connection of her various works by using memories to display her skills of art and celebrate her life story. She compresses her entire life in a short story, which gives her a remarkable virtue of both a contemporary and a modernist writer. The purpose of the analysis is to describe the content, structure, and functions of thematic tools, imagery, and mystery in the story to show Munro’s artistic work.
The work ‘Dear Life’ is one of Munro’s short stories that provide a personal account on events that occurred in her life. Munro’s remarkable qualities from the story ‘Dear Life’ portrays her as a distinct writer who uses short fiction to provide literary works from which she won a Nobel prize. She used mystery to give her readers discretion of assuming answers to the questions that she left unanswered. She used imagery and parody in her work to support her artistic skills, as well as to communicate her messages. The author states social issues that concern women and their living conditions.
How it works
The background of this story is that of a Canadian setting. The author demonstrated the setting by giving a recount of her town, country life, earlier years spent in the countryside, and the memories in mind (Munro 42). She started the story by describing the road she used from school, which implies the journey that she took towards transition. The author’s description of her life history gives the story a transition from the countryside to town life. There are many events in the story where the author recalls her memories about the life she spent during her stay in the countryside. She remembers her essential details of the places she visited as a child and fondness with them, which implies how she is celebrating those memories that time has left in her mind.
Munro has extensively used memories of the past physical things to conceal and portray the deep emotions she experienced. For example, she remembers a bitter memory when her father flogged her (Munro 39). The tone of the author is that of a composed person, which means that the memories have acted as a bonding agent that makes the bitter experiences less painful. The narration of the painful experiences helps to expose the positive lessons that a reader can learn from hard circumstances in one’s life history. For example, the narrator finds her positive spirit when she says that she is lucky for having passed against all the odds in her life (Munro 119). There is relativism and uniformity in the story because the recounts of events resonate with their experiences. For example, the narrator’s life events give the readers a touch of familiarity and encourage them to examine their memory lanes.
The author’s writing talent is recounted among contemporary and modern writers because of how she knows the art of playing with memories and presenting them in a complete form. For example, her narration records the remarkable events in her life, which recounts her childhood, adulthood, and the painful experience in her family. The narrator gives a whole world using her life history, unlike other writers who focus on a single incident. The author’s literary work is outstanding because she uses a non-linear sequence of events, such as a description of the neighbors, to her father’s business, and her mother miscarriages. Her work does not follow the usual plot structure of a short story. Besides, it has no beginning and the end, but unreliable narration where the reader does not expect what comes next.
Munro uses a style of giving the reader the discretion to offer answers to questions that she posts. There is ambiguity in the story with the women who described Munro in the newspaper, which she considers as the daughter of Mrs. Netterfield who was their neighbor in the countryside. The use of the style leaves both the narrator and the reader unaware of the woman being described. The author uses the technique of the mystery for the reader to connect various instances in the story. The structure of the story “Dear Life” leaves certain lines broken with no connection with the previous text. For example, there is a missing link with Mrs. Netterfield, her behavior, and what happened to her in the end. Moreover, Munro describes Mrs. Netterfield as their neighbor; however, there is a mystery in how the narrator was told that their house belonged to Mrs. Netterfield family.
Subsequently, the author made social statements in the story that have a hidden agenda in the novel; for example, the lifestyle difference that she had while living in the village and the town. She made some statements that show considerable differences in the living condition of individuals in those areas. For example, she compares the state of toilets at her former school with those of the new one where one could hear the urban sound of flushing water. Another social agenda she presents in the story is animal cruelty where she observed many animal killings. Therefore, she acts like an animal protector.
The lives of women are another social concern in the short story where the narrator portrays them as ordinary people without any role. For example, she has presented women’s roles such as cooking to be exciting. Additionally, she narrates the limitations that she faced as she grew older when she was required to help her mother with the house chores. Her memories about what women faced portray her role towards women empowerment, leadership, and the need for gender socialization that nurture women into specific roles. The opposition she faced while remaining adamant to the course of change highlights the interest of women and the way their lives can be seen with the beatings that she received from her father.
Another social statement made by Munro was women’s problem of 19th Century for lacking financial resources, unlike their male counterparts. She makes the statement in a hidden manner about the unavailable or lack of better chances for women; while, ironically talks about his father satisfaction with his workplace. The narrator confesses that she could risk walking in a company of other men when her father had gone out to work because she considered such activity as exotic. The statement implies the interest she had to change women situation from the mundane role to certain duties in the specific field.
Another notable style in the short story of “Dear Life” is a parody, which is the characteristic that qualifies Monroe as a modern writer. She uses parody to repeat critical events in such a way that it depicts similarity. The author achieves the style by writing the stories told to
the narrator by her mother, which becomes difficult to believe. The parody difference in the account of the story each time it is narrated implies that the time frame has created many gaps and the things have changed including realities in women. The narrator’s mother demonstrates the role of women struggle by telling a different story each time from the original one, which implies that they transgress the earlier belief they had to find their version of truths.
Therefore, the analysis of the structure, content, and functions of the stylistic devices used in the short story has demonstrated the intent of the author to the readers. The use of imagery, parody, social statements, and mystery has unleashed the intention of the writer, as well as the concerns of the issues that affected women and society. Through the styles, the author has informed the reader about various topics such as feminism. Nevertheless, there is no particular theme in the “Dear Life” because the narrator gives the recount of events that occurred in her life at different stages. Subsequently, there is no storyline and the plot. Additionally, it lacks climax and ends without concluding on specific critical issues that are narrated. The use of memories as a style has informed the reader about the narrator’s life history and how one can reflect on such occurrences in their perspectives.
- Munro, Alice. Dear life: stories. Vintage, 2012