Too Much Happiness

by Alice Munro

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What are the themes of the short story collection Too Much Happiness?

There are many themes in Alice Munro's short story collection Too Much Happiness. You could discuss how these stories touch on themes of women’s submission to men, especially predatory men who murder children and their parents. Building off of that, you could move into themes of trauma, death, and loss. All three, in Munro's stories, seem unavoidable.

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There are many themes in Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness. One theme I noticed was that of compliance and obligation, especially as it relates to women and men. In "Dimensions," a wife continues to see her deranged husband even though he killed all three of their children. In "Wenlock Edge," a girl submits to dining naked. Then there's "Free Radicals," where a stranger lies his way into a widow's home, gets her to serve him tea and food, and then tells her how he murdered his parents and disabled sister.

Another theme is trauma: violence and death occur often in these stories. The title story starts with Sofia Kovalevskaya—a real-life Russian mathematician from the 1800s—in a graveyard. Then there's the widow in "Free Radicals." Not only does she have to deal with her husband's death and her own cancer, but now she has a murderer in her house who's bossing her around.

We might also bring up the theme of pride. How might pride, trauma, and even shame mix together in these tales? In "Wenlock Edge," the girl tells us that she agreed to dine naked because of "the folly of pride."

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