Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro manages to recreate a feeling of confusion, the need for answers, uncertainty, recollections of excitement, mystery and awakening sexuality of teenage years in its readers. It is impossible to stay indifferent to the events described in the novel, it is impossible not to compare our teenage selves with the protagonist, for her transformation from a child to a teen and from a teen to an adult is so painfully familiar.
Dell Jordan is the protagonist of Lives of Girls and Women. Her main peculiarity is her need for answers. More often than not, her childish curiosity comes near to cruelty. The girl is eager to learn about this world as much as possible, which makes her become a passionate reader. In spite of her natural brightness and impressive knowledge, she is just a child, who spends a lot of time arguing with her mother. She feels ashamed of her, her ridiculous look, her knowledge and even her atheism. The interesting thing is that Ada’s atheism causes the majority of quarrels between the mother and the daughter. Dell feels the need to find God and understand Him. She even changes the United Church for the Anglican Church. Later on, she is paid back for constant religious questioning, when her own little brother Owen, who has never bothered himself with conceptions of God before, kneels to pray, so that Dell’s God could save his dog from inevitable death at heads of his own father. It causes her almost physical pain to see someone, who believes in a miracle so much, who prays so hard, for she knows that Owen’s pleads are not going to be answered. This scene tells a lot about Dell. She comes to her brother’s room to have a look at his reaction on a coming murder of his dog in the first place. What is it, if not an act of cruel curiosity? Dell’s suffers from her own idea of what right and wrong is. Initially the girl believes that it is always possible to differentiate between the good and the bad, but when she meets a prostitute from a local brothel, who looks like everybody else and reads a newspaper other people read, she is shocked, for she doesn’t see the face of evil.
Dell’s mother Ada is no less interesting character than her daughter. She is radically modern. Being raised by a religious fanatic, she doesn’t need any God in her life. Dell’s need to find Him becomes her personal defeat. It is Ada, who often raises question of women’s empowerment, humanism and freedom of choice. If she had a chance to get a degree, she would have never married Dell and Owen’s father. Dell feels it, but is afraid to admit it, for it is not pleasant at all to be somebody’s mistake. When Ada speaks about her childhood, she can’t help but mention tormenting she had to face there. That old abuse could be the reason of her eagerness to advocate for women’s rights.
This is the story about everything, but what is more important, it is about life, sometimes boring, sometimes uneventful, sometimes tragic, but always unique.