Alice Munro: Short Stories Themes

Alice Munro: Short Stories Themes

Mother/Daughter Relationships

The connected yet independent series of stories that makes up Lives of Girl and Women firmly and forever established Alice Munro as one of the keenest observers of the intricate details and seeming insignificant moments which prove to have far greater consequence as the maturation process deepens and transforms the relationship between mother and daughter. This is a theme that Munro explores well beyond that self-contained text as mothers and daughters are a pervasive influence upon events throughout all the various different narrative threads her creative spirit follows.

Small Town Life: Canadian Style

Any fans of the short fiction of the masters of the weirdness that goes on beneath the surface of seemingly small, sleepy towns (like those of Carson McCullers or Flannery O’Connor or Eudora Welty) should find themselves in comfortable conditions when they move from the realm of Southern Gothic to the Great White North of Munro’s settings. Like Welty at her most sublime, Munro proves an inestimable artist of choosing the precise action everyone who ever grew up in a small town will recognize and then endowing it with a meaning that can be universally understood. The story “Walker Brothers Cowboy” is almost a virtuoso exhibition of this talent as it can almost be describe as a veritable catalog of small, recognizable moments serving a process of expounding upon history and myth. And yet, it is a story that brings a small slice of Canada palpably to life.

The Impact of the Wilderness upon the Civilized

Like her fellow Canadian, Munro is well-known for bringing the wilderness to life in her fiction. She is not some mere travel writer who uses the great untamed frontier of Canada merely as backdrop against which to place characters who might well go about their journey of self-discovery in a hotel as well as a cabin. The wilderness is alive with the ferocity of the ancient primitive nature of man which has been civilized from one perspective, but constrained and made unnatural from another. When Munro’s characters go into the wild, it is very likely to be a decision made every bit as much from a thematic necessity as a narrative one.

Accidental Predestination

Munro's stories are defined by what seems like a commingling of the purely random with a course predetermined long before. Chance encounters and absolutely random acts of coincidence populate much of Munro’s fiction, but no writer with such a famously precise eye for detail and judicious editing relies on such happenstances purely as a mechanism for narrative convenience. When these rolls of the dice by the fates turn up snake eyes for her characters, the lack of contextual meaning is brief. By the final paragraph, Munro can almost always be counted upon to supply the narrative with a series of dots that the reader can connect to reveal a pattern which sometimes may cast light on the entire concept of randomness. More likely, those, the pattern be in the service of the shadowy ambiguity of possibilities which mark Munro’s most accomplished feats of short fiction. This is the element of her attention to thematic detail that has earned her comparisons to another master of short fiction set in a cold world: Anton Chekhov.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.