Hauntings: Juliet's Elegy for Past in Alice Munro's Chance, Soon and Silence
The three connected stories, Chance, Soon and Silence in Alice Munros
collection, Runaway, form the core of the collection, thematically and structurally.
Munro tells the story of Juliet and her feelings of regret over the loss of her
parents, her husband Eric, her friend Christa, and, most of all, her daughter
Penelope. By juxtaposing moments in the present and the near and distant past,
and using repetition and echoes, Munro leads us through Juliets life, showing us
why she is caught up in her grief. Munro connects the past to the present by
leaping through time, fragmenting the story, and using a shifting third-person
narrator. Because past and present are fragmented throughout the stories, often
without clear markers to show which is which, we understand how Juliets been
affected by the choices she and Eric and Penelope (and her parents and Christa)
have made, and we sympathize more deeply with her because we understand her
past and how its affected her. Because of this sense of timelessness (a term
Blodgett used to characterize Munros earlier work) that the collapsed time
creates, we want to unpuzzle the story and understand where Juliet is now. The
three stories function as a sort of elegy (a word Karen E. Smythe used to define
Munros older stories), and by the end of Silence, Juliet has accepted her past and
returned to her Greek studies, finding some sense of peace.
Ive followed the narrative leaps in time and shifts in third-person through
Chance, Soon, and Silence in order to understand how Munros craft works
why her stories have become more fragmented, and how her interest in the
relationship between past and present comes to bear on Juliets life and
understanding of self. In doing so, I apply postmodern theory, including the work
of Andreas Huyssen and Avery Gordon, to Munros stories. Ive also incorporated
studies of writing craft by Charles Baxter, Debra Spark and Janet Burroway, and
relied on the critical work of Louise MacKendrick, Karen E. Smythe, E.D.
Blodgett, Ildiko de Papp Carrington, Leslie Awano, and other Munro scholars.
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:10/01/2008