Alice Munro: Short Stories

“The Alternative to Loving:” Sideshadowing and the Unconsummated in Alice Munro College

A possibly dangerous intruder does not show up. A woman has dreams of a long dead man from her past. A child hopes to trick two teenage girls into thinking she is a ghost. A reminder that the king of France is bald. These are just a few of the obscure scenes that vaguely constitute endings throughout Alice Munro’s The Love of a Good Woman. In its ending scene, each story resists closure, sometimes with the unexpected and stunted introduction of new characters, like the teenage girls in “My Mother’s Dream,” other times with the continued suspension of information, such as the obscured image of Cortes Island still not visible to the narrator even in her dreams, and yet other times in seemingly incongruous anticlimax, when the horrific conclusion promised by the eerie tension throughout “Save the Reaper” ultimately fails to materialize.

It is this trend of inconclusive conclusions – “virtually no conclusion[s] at all” – that John Gerlach claims “poses unusual problems for the reader” (146). Focusing primarily on the collection’s title story, Gerlach presents Gary Saul Morson’s concept of literary sideshadowing as the best approach for coping with Munro’s often abortive endings. Gerlach’s application of Morson’s sideshadowing can...

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