Flies in Cobwebs
The short stories collection in Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women (1971) centers around, and is narrated by, Del Jordan, a clever and attentive adolescent girl from the fictional town of Jubilee, Ontario. The 1940s -set novel begins with a first-person perspective intertwined with an omniscient point of view, which deviates into a retrospective narrator as she becomes a young adult. This provides the reader with an understanding of Del’s realities as her body and her world change. Also, the different narrating voices provide a different perspective on religion and society addressing the deep complexities of finding one’s place and true identity. Munro uses throughout the two short stories, Princess Ida and Heirs of the Living Body, a thematic metaphor creating a depth and complexity within the “ordinary” mother. Through Munro’s characterization and narrative structure, the mysteries within the lives of ordinary people are able to be understood in a different way. Her writing is straightforward and evocative, relaying on small realizations within the text rather than the big events. Thus, Munro is able to create an image of conflict, yet, connect Ada with Del through various parallels within the text. In Princess Ida, the story focuses on Del’s mother, Ada Jordan, who sells encyclopaedias door to door. This small action becomes a metaphor for her rationality, mobility and independence. Ada’s ambition is towards becoming truly autonomous, however, she cannot escape the feelings of failure. The other country wives hold a view of the future in the prospect of marriage and having children, however Ada struggles for intellectual enrichment and this creates an impulsive hostility. This idea of failure brought upon by Del’s aunts who view Ada as stepping out of her role, risking failure and appearing foolish. As Ada writes letters to the local newspaper editors and city paper she signs them with an alias “Princess...
Cited: Munro, Alice. Lives of Girls and Women. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 1971. Print.
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