Everybody knows what a house does, how it encloses space and makes connections between one enclosed space and another and presents what is outside in a new way. This is the nearest I can come to explaining what a story does for me, and what I want my stories to do for other people. (from “What is Real?”)
In this one-evening short story intensive, we will first consider Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” and then move into Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.” The connections between the two pieces may not be obvious at first, but I think in our discussions we will find how they reflect and address each other while walking very different roads.
“Why I Live at the P.O.” is deeply connected to the place and time period in which it is set. As readers, we are positioned so close to Sister, the narrator, that it may take some time for us to realize we are being persuaded. Her point of view in the story she relays is strongly inflected and makes her narration unreliable, but there is much to be gained even from this dented perspective. The humor is rich and compelling, but there is also strong commentary and more subtle insights on females and familial relationships: the jealousies and tensions, sharp hurts and unspoken wounds. Notice how quickly the mood swings from teasing to rupture: what is suggested here?
“Why I Live at P.O. “ http://art-bin.com/art/or_weltypostoff.html
“Boys and Girls” http://womeninlit.tripod.com/alicemunro.htm
Below is selection from a review of Munro; please do not worry if you do not have time to read through this material before we meet…these resources will be equally illuminating in the Salon aftermath.
“The Germans must have a term for it. Doppelgedanken, perhaps: the sensation, when reading, that your own mind is giving birth to the words as they appear on the page. Such is the ego that in these rare instances you wonder, “How could the author have known what I was thinking?” Of course, what has happened isn’t this at all, though it’s no less astonishing. Rather, you’ve been drawn so deftly into another world that you’re breathing with someone else’s rhythms, seeing someone else’s visions as your own.
“One of the pleasures of reading Alice Munro derives from her ability to impart this sensation. It’s the sort of gift that requires enormous modesty on the part of the writer, who must shun pyrotechnics for something less flashy: an empathy so pitch-perfect as to be nearly undetectable. But it’s most arresting in the hands of a writer who isn’t too modest — one possessed of a fearless, at times, fearsome, ambition.”
From review in the New York Times By Leah Hager Cohen. Published: November 27, 2009
I suggest that Munro explores juxtaposed worlds in her fiction…that she uses her characters to probe the relationships between psychological spaces and the outside world. Her female characters all have a fine double awareness of community values and of what else goes on outside those limits. They are fascinated by dark holes and unscripted spaces with their scandalous discreditable stories of transgression and desire. The romantic fantasies, the glimpses of interior lives and the rumors and gossip these engender are part of this recognition of other worlds.
Always amazed how Munro effortlessly uses metaphors of place and event to reveal deep interior turbulence and ambivalences: for ex.; the ‘pelting’ of the beautiful foxes in the ‘Boys and Girls’ becomes wonderful resonance for the way in which the narrator is skinned by the process of growing in to the skin of a ‘girl’- and must go through the act of un-skinning herself to find her sneaky, savage and hostile self that will fight this reduction.
Further reading– http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/scl/article/view/8112/9169
Here you will find an analysis of “Boys and Girls” through a feminist consideration.
If you would like to request this study or have any questions about it, please contact us.