However the human issues she deals with are universal. We can all identify with Helen’s embarrassment and release. At the end, Helen has found her voice (symbolised by the honking of the horn). Munro’s intentions in ‘Miles City Montana’ also include exploring gender roles and power. (Also the restrictions that result from those gender roles and in particular male egotism. ) ‘Miles City Montana’ also explores social expectations, motherhood/parenthood, the idea of love and hate within families, memories and family history.
In this story Munro uses symbolically important ‘props’ such as maps to facilitate the furthering/conclusion of the narrative. ‘Miles city Montana’ is not set specifically within a small town. Most of the story takes place when the characters are on a journey across the country. The idea of travelling beyond ones bounderies, links with another of Munro’s stories from the collection namely ‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’. However, the idea of a stifling small town environment is mentioned and the theme is still evident within the story. “As for me, I was happy because of the shedding, I loved taking off.
In my own house, I seemed to be often looking for a place to hide, sometimes from the children but more often from the jobs to be done and the phone ringing and the sociability of the neighbourhood. ” Therefore the style of small town setting seen so frequently in the work of Alice Munro is evident (albeit it only at the start if the story) within ‘Miles City Montana’. The central metaphor of the maps within the story is important because it introduces into the mind of the reader the importance of making choices in life and the implications of choosing the paths that you take.
‘Miles City Montana’ like ‘Postcard’ has the central character in this case the mother as the focalizer and therefore, the story is told from her perspective (the first person narrative). The ordinary seemingly casual language of the focalizer within the story creates the extraordinary effect on the reader of being able to see the events in the story through the eyes of one character (in this case the mother). The story ‘Miles City Montana’ starts off with a retrospective of events that had happened years earlier, which has resonance later in the story. “My father came across the field carrying the body of a boy who had been drowned.
” The rest of the events within the story follow a more conventional pattern. However, the events are still littered with time shifts punctuated by breaks in paragraphs. “I haven’t seen Andrew for years, don’t know if he is still thin, has completely gone gray, insists on lettuce, tells the truth, or is hearty and disappointed” Paragraph break. “We stayed that night in Wenatchee, Washington, where it hadn’t rained for weeks. ” The reader is left pondering the significance of each momentary break in time, leaving them to ponder the true intention behind these diversions.
In ‘Miles City Montana’ Munro explores the idea of gender differences within marriage. “Andrew congratulated the car several times. He said he felt so much better driving it than our old car, a 1951 Austin that slowed down dismally on the hills and had a fussy – old – lady image. ” This quote shows the way that men see women as objects and liken them to cars. The particular way that female subjectivity is addressed in ‘Miles City Montana’ is through the male, in this case Andrew dominates his wife.
“Sometimes the very sound of his foot steps seemed to me tyrannical, the set of his mouth smug and mean, his hard, straight body a barrier interposed – quite consciously, even dutifully, and with a nasty pleasure in its masculine authority – between me and whatever joy or lightness I could get in life. ” There is also affection between them. “Then with not much warning, he became my good friend and most essential companion. I felt the sweetness of his light bones and serious ideas, the vunerability of his love, which I imagined to be much purer and more straightforward than my own.
” The story also explores the idea of personal identity within a domestic setting. “As for me, I was happy because of the shedding, I loved taking off. In my own house, I seemed to be often looking for a place to hide, sometimes from the children but more often from the jobs to be done and the phone ringing and the sociability of the neighbourhood. I wanted to hide so that I could get busy at my real work, which was a sort of wooing of distant parts of myself. I lived in a state of siege, always losing just what I wanted to hold on to. ” The focalizer in the story is a mother.
“It seems to me know that we invented characters for our children. We had them firmly set to play their parts. Cynthia was bright and diligent, sensitive, courteous, watchful. ………. They cackled clear above the milky fog. ” Children can be seen as a gift for the future. The ordinary language of home life and children leads to extraordinary effects on the reader when Alice Munro mentions them in her stories. For example in ‘Miles City Montana’ the children are playing a seemingly ordinary game of ‘Who am I? ‘ but the effect on the reader created by the language is extraordinary.
“In the car we played Who Am I. ” The seemingly trivial child’s game, leads to the focalizer within the story (the mother) questioning her own life, she questions her relationship with her husband and she questions herself as a mother. The questioning by the focalizer, leaves the reader questioning the idea/themes of life and death within themselves. The game of ‘Who Am I? ‘ leads the focalizer to recount details of her life before she got married and through her regression into her past, she reveals universal truths about the human condition.
“There was a freakishly heavy rain all night. In the early light, we saw that the turkey field was flooded. ………. But they had managed to crowd to higher ground and avoid drowning. Now they might push each other off, suffocate each other, get cold and die. ” Munro’s style of balancing private and public worlds simultaneously is shown in ‘Miles City Montana’. The public world on display is mainly recorded through pictures and the private world is shown through the thoughts of the narrator. “Andrew took lots of pictures of me and of the children, our house……
He liked to have his record go forth. ” But this view of a dutiful wife and a picture perfect family is later contradicted. This view shows how much of a contradiction appears within their lives; between what the man would believe to be true and what the woman actually feels. Maps are referred to and those references make it clear to the reader the symbolic significance of them. They are on a journey but as the story progresses it becomes evident that the maps serve a higher purpose, that purpose being to be symbolic of the journeys that one embarks upon during life.
“I took the atlas and pointed out the road through the mountains, and she took it back and showed it to Meg ……. She pointed to it! Meg understands maps! ” The use of the children when highlighting the symbolism of the maps is not accidental, Munro is showing the reader the innocence and naivety of children thinking that they understand and can predict the journey that becomes life. The language used when exploring the map concept is ordinary but when the reader realises that the maps are highly symbolic of life then the effect that the language has on the reader is extraordinary.
The reader realises that they like the characters have choices to make and that life has twists and turns just as a road does. Within ‘Miles City Montana’ geographical details are used to promote the idea of realism. The mention of towns/areas that they are driving through, links with the idea of a symbolic map. “We turned east at Everett, and climbed into the Cascades. I showed Cynthia our route on the map. First I showed her the map of the whole United States…….. Then we would drive across Michigan to the bridge that linked the United States and Canada at Sarnia, Ontario.
Home. ” Alice Munro explores the ideas of creating false memories. This is shown in the following quote when the central character is talking about the drowning of Steve Gauly. “I don’t think so. I don’t think I really saw all of this. Perhaps I saw my father carrying him…….. It would have been bloated and changed and perhaps muddied all over after so many hours in the water. ” This idea of creating a false memory can be said to be part of the unconventional way that Alice Munro uses the short story genre.
The reader is intrigued and needs to piece together all the information given in the story and to come to their own conclusions about the validity of the facts. The reader within the story is placed in an active rather than passive role. The reader is active because they have to act as a detective and piece together the story for themselves because the continuation of the narrative depends upon this. For example: “I haven’t seen Andrew for years, don’t know if he is still thin, has completely gone gray, insists on lettuce, tells the truth, or is hearty and disappointed”
The ending of ‘Miles City Montana’ adds to the narrative, it adds a further comment not only on the thoughts and ideas professed within the story but on the idea of society and the future. “So we went on, with the two in the back seat trusting us, because of no choice, and we ourselves trusting to be forgiven, in time, for everything that had first to be seen and condemned by those children: whatever was flippant, arbitrary, careless, callous – all our natural, and particular, mistakes. ”
The above quote highlights a point where Munro could be seen as speaking through the character in her book communicating directly with the reader. This directly links with ‘Postcard’ where Munro chooses to speak through her characters. ‘Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You’ also demands that the reader be the detective, dropping hints, but in the end the reader has to piece together all the clues and come to their own conclusions. Another intention is to show different power relationships (mainly the power that results from beauty). “Char fought hard all these years to keep her figure…….
“What is the difference, What does it matter? ” he would say to Et. “She would still be beautiful. ” The power struggle is also connected to knowledge, the idea that knowledge is power. “That way, Et was left knowing more; she was left knowing what Char looked like when she lost her powers. ” “She had them at a disadvantage …….. torn by children and operations. ” The above quote shows how Et has power over the women of the town because she has the knowledge of what they truly look like (when their corsets have been taken off) as she works as a dressmaker.
Within the story there are many gothic images and references that imply a sense of evil below the surface. “He told them the house was haunted. The first Et had ever heard of it, living ten miles away all her life. A woman had killed her husband, the son of the millionaire, at least it was believed she killed him. The title of the story also adds to the gothic/sinister effects of the story. The idea of a sinister secret being kept by Et from Arthur is portrayed in the story and the reader is left guessing even at the conclusion of the story.