In “The Bear Came over the Mountain,” Munro explores how individuals react to their own aging or to the aging of their companions. The story opens with a scene of a young, vivacious Fiona proposing marriage to Grant. This incident is followed by another with Fiona, now seventy, preparing to enter Meadowlake, a new assisted-living facility. Grant and Fiona have been married for almost fifty years when she begins displaying signs of dementia. At first it is amusing; she leaves notes about her daily schedule, but then the notes start identifying the contents of the kitchen drawers. Soon she cannot find her way home. Fortunately they can afford Meadowlake.
Munro juxtaposes scenes from the past with the present, so the reader sees a saucy Fiona contrasted with a Fiona who seems not to recognize her husband. In a Munro story, ambiguity rules. Perhaps Fiona, in her actions, is now extracting vengeance for Grant’s earlier erasure of her in his numerous affairs.
The story also explores how people negotiate long-term commitments and how they rationalize their failure to uphold these commitments. Using flashbacks, Munro presents Grant’s earlier years as a professor who may have received his position because of Fiona’s father’s largesse to the university. Grant seduces his students; some are married women but some are identified as girls. Rationalizing his behavior, he argues that the times promoted free sex or that the older women longed for...
(The entire section is 517 words.)