By Harold Bloom (Editor)
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Extra resources for Alice Munro (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)
She uses old legends and conventions slyly, embodying them in order to question them. . . the Chinese image of heaven (Pi), which is shaped like a circle with a hole (analogous with cup or chalice) in the middle” (1962, 116). This circle can be spotted in Munro stories but it is mockingly reproduced. I am thinking, for example, of the “Hole-in-One” doughnut shop in “Providence” (WDY, 136). The grail implies “above all, the quest for the mystic ‘Centre’ ” (Cirlot, 1962, 116), but Munro is writing against the grain of this kind of symbolism.
Although we may thus pay tribute by acknowledging the failure of our own representations, this does not alter or correct the exclusion of the mother from written history. Munro’s choice of title here is an augury of her developing interest in history as it relates to the erasure of the maternal heritage. With the realization of the silenced and marginalized mother comes also a heightened awareness of the otherness of other characters. Strike out the M in Mother and you see the other in Maddy. It is she, after all, who acted as surrogate mother to her own sick mother and it is she who is the object of the pointing finger of blame.
Given their context of psychic disequilibrium (“I felt I wasn’t too far from being loony myself ” ), Julie’s cool and breezy narratives must share some of the protective, distancing motivations impelling Prue and Wilfred. But another agenda also drives her: her stories, with their blithe and studied self-exposure, have the practical effect of attracting Douglas. Her confession to Douglas seeks neither expiation nor representation, but seduction. . denim jacket” (183) for a pink dress and flowered hat.