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The final two pages of Alice Munro’s work The Progress of Love use a number of particular literary techniques to contribute to the effectiveness of the work’s conclusion. Among these techniques are the following:
- Use of first-person point of view, as in the many references to such words as “I” and “my.” By using this perspective, Munro emphasizes that we are seeing things as the narrator sees them. Her insights and conclusions are grounded in her own personal experiences and values. They are not being offered as irrefutable truths but as personal, private assessments which may be valuable precisely because they are the result of lived experience, not of automatic or conventional assumptions.
- Emphasis on ambiguity and uncertainty, as in such phrases as “It wouldn’t appear so” or “it seems fairly clear, if I remember everything.” In the preceding phrasing, the words “fairly” and “If” help qualify and make uncertain the very assertion the narrator offers.
- Use of fragments for emphasis, as when the narrator writes,
A solemn scene, but not crazy. People doing something that seems to them natural and necessary.
- Frequent alternation between vivid memories of the past and present attempts to make sense of those memories, and even to deal with doubts about the veracity of those memories.
- Emphatic repetition of key words, such as “necessary,” “they,” “truth,” and “believe.” Such repetition not only stresses important ideas but also often gives the prose a chant-like rhythm.
- Emphasis on self-questioning, as when the narrator asks, “How could I even say that I approved of it myself?” This technique contributes to our sense that the narrator is not pretending to know all the answers. As the work concludes, she is in the process of thought, not in the process of merely offering warm-over platitudes. Notice that the very last sentence begins with the words “I wonder.” The narrator, in that sentence, is not offering hard “truths”; she is offering possibilities for us (and her) to consider.
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