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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Early on in Alice Munro's story, she writes of the affairs that Grant had when he was younger. With his interest in women and students, "There was an expectation of discovery, almost a spiritual expansion. Also timidity, humility, alarm...." Later, "He hauled himself out of the dream, took pills, and set about separating what was real from what was not." 

Then, further in the narrative, Munro describes Grant's experiences with Fiona's residence in Meadowlake:

But things really didn’t change back and forth and he didn’t get used to the way they were. Fiona was the one who seemed to get used to him, but only as some persistent visitor who took a special interest in her. Or perhaps even as a nuisance who must be prevented, according to her old rules of courtesy, from realizing that he was one.

This passage educes meaning from the title. A bear comes over a mountain expecting new prey, a mountain stream perhaps and berries, etc. Instead, he merely discovers the same terrain, albeit somewhat rearranged. This is the case of Grant and Fiona: they change places somewhat in their older years, but life remains ambiguously similar in pattern and desire. That is, neither spouse understands the other; Grant promises Fiona a different life after some affairs, but there is little change. Fiona inexplicably recovers from her grief over the loss of Aubrey. And yet, the gossamer thread of love that comes from years together unites them as Fiona tells Grant that he could have forsaken her, and he replies, "Not a chance."

Read the study guide:
The Bear Came over the Mountain

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