Study Guide

Floating Bridge

by Alice Munro

Floating Bridge Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Floating Bridge,” a story about learning to accept the tentative nature of human life, begins with an account about a time when Jinny left her husband, Neal, briefly to sit in a bus shelter near her home, reading graffiti on the wall and identifying with people who feel they have to write things down. When she returns home, she asks Neal if he would ever have come after her, and he says, “Of course. Given time.” Neal’s detached attitude toward Jinny and his cavalier treatment of her despite her life-threatening illness is an undercurrent that runs throughout the story.

The present time of the story begins with Jinny, who is terminally ill with cancer, leaving an appointment with her oncologist to meet Neal. He has hired a young woman named Helen who works at the Correctional Institute for Young Offenders where he teaches to help them during Jinny’s illness.

Helen, who comes from an abusive family, has been brought up by foster parents. When Neal and Jinny meet her, she must go pick up her good shoes from the home of June and Matt Bergson, where her sister lives. When they arrive at the trailer park, they are invited in, but Jinny wants to stay outside. Neal says if they do not accept the invitation, it will seem as if they think they are too good for them, so he goes inside while Jinny waits in the car. She goes down to a nearby cornfield, wanting to lie down in the shade of the tall stalks until Neal comes out and calls for her....

(The entire section is 532 words.)