Alice Munro is one of Canada’s most renowned contemporary writers. Since the publication of her first volume, Dance of the Happy Shades in 1968, she has produced several important short story collections. Munro has been called a regional writer because many of her stories are set in rural Ontario during the Depression era, where Munro grew up, and evoke a bygone time of hardship and deprivation. Within this world, however, Munro’s central characters often hold on to their sense of wonder and mystery about the world around them, as does the narrator of ‘‘Walker Brothers Cowboy.’’ The family of the narrator—a young girl—has lost their fox farm, and her father has been forced to take a job peddling patent medicines, food flavorings, and poisons to the farmers who live in Ontario’s backcountry, but the girl still looks deeply at the ordinary world and finds enchantment in it. Like many of Munro’s works, ‘‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’’ also explores such universal themes as isolation, identity, and maturation.
Munro further delves into these issues in her collection Lives of Girls and Women, again from the point of view of the narrator of ‘‘Walker Brothers Cowboy.’’ This return to the narrator—Del Jordan—allows interested readers to more closely examine and follow one girl’s path to maturity, and observe how her unique way of looking at the world influences the choices that she makes. ‘‘Walker Brothers Cowboy,’’ however, also stands alone as a fine example of Munro’s skill as a writer and her concerns as a woman.