Lives of Girls and Women

Happily Never After: Traditional vs. True Happiness in Lives of Girls and Women

The myth of “happily ever after” has pervaded Western culture for centuries. Nearly all of our fairy tales and bedtime stories conclude with the hero and his beautiful bride riding off into the sunset. Because of these stories, the idea that marriage is the final goal in life and the source of all happiness is held intact. This is especially true in the case of literature involving female protagonists. In the words of Carol L. Bean, “the traditional conventions of the genre of fiction – whether popular or elite – have taken finding true love (with marriage as its signifier and happiness as its inevitable reward) as the major goal of women’s quests.” (Bean 330) It is this concept that Alice Munro so passionately battles in her fiction. While laden with themes of religion, sex, and other heavy topics, Lives of Girls and Women serves as a testament to Monroe’s belief that marriage does not equal happiness.

We see in Lives of Girls and Women that the world of Del Jordan has already been tainted with an “Angel in the House” mentality. In fact, Munro gives us Del’s own view of and longing for the conventional fairy tale. In “Changes and Ceremonies,” Del finds out that this year’s operetta will be The Pied Piper, and finds herself “...

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