The question – what do Enid and Mrs. Quinn say about women in Alice Munro’s “The Love of a Good Woman?” – is unclear in its intent. The question suggests either a conversation between those two characters regarding women, or pointed comments by them independent of each other reflecting their views of women. In either case, Munro’s story does neither. Rather, the reader is left to surmise a particular perspective regarding women from background provided in the story as well as comments that may suggest a particular bias. Mrs. Quinn’s sister-in-law, and her husband Rupert’s sister, Olive Green, is the most biased when viewing or associating with people of other socioeconomic backgrounds. In discussing her brother’s marriage with Enid, the nurse caring for and living with Mrs. Quinn, Olive describes their history as follows:
“Rupert met her when he went up north,” Mrs. Green said. “He went off by himself, he worked in the bush up there. She had some kind of a job in a hotel. I’m not sure what. Chambermaid job. She wasn’t raised up there, though—she says she was raised in an orphanage in Montreal. She can’t help that. You’d expect her to speak French, but if she does she don’t let on.”
While Olive’s questionable use of language (“she don’t let on”) speaks to her superficiality and reveals her own somewhat simple background, her comments regarding her brother’s wife are replete with notions of class superiority. Similarly, Enid’s job as a full-time home-care nurse for mostly lower-income families stands in contrast to her own parent’s visions of where they hoped their daughter would go in life. In discussing Enid’s choice of nursing as a profession, her mother notes that Enid’s father had looked down on that choice because of the lower-class culture in his daughter would be immersed:
“It’s just this idea he’s got now,” her mother said. “He’s got an idea that nursing makes a woman coarse.”
In addition, Munro, in describing Enid’s background and family dynamics, notes that her mother was also skeptical about Enid’s choice in professions:
“. . .her mother had not wanted Enid to go into nursing in the first place, claiming that it was something poor girls did . . .”
These comments reveal the extent to which the class distinctions to which England was known throughout much of its history colored people’s perceptions of each other and how they value -- or didn’t value -- various professions. To that extent, there is no question the views of women provided in Munro’s story are characteristic of Victorian-era perceptions.