The Bear Came Over the Mountain

by Alice Munro

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What is the irony in "The Bear Came Over the Mountain"?

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The irony in Alice Munro’s story is of the type called situational irony. This means that the reader’s or a character’s expectations are not realized, but instead a different outcome results. In this story, that reversal applies primarily to Grant, but it may be understood as applying to Marion as well.

The reader learns that Grant, during five decades of marriage, had repeatedly been unfaithful to his wife, Fiona. Munro does not inform the reader whether Fiona knew about his infidelities. One place where the irony arises is in Fiona’s behavior once she moves to the Meadowlake retirement community. While it is clear that she is suffering from dementia, she has many lucid moments, so her actions may be deliberately calculated as revenge on her husband. At Meadowlake, Fiona openly flirts with another resident, Aubrey, who is also married and is there, although only temporarily, without his wife. Grant is startled by his wife’s behavior but also realizes that the relationship with Aubrey has positive benefits.

The main instance of irony comes when Grant makes a suggestion to Marion, Aubrey’s wife, after she removes him from Meadowlake. When he suggests that Aubrey return there, she does not refuse (although she has concerns about the expense) or get upset about the idea of her husband getting involved with someone else. Instead, she suggests that the two of them begin a relationship. In trying to do something good for his wife, Grant has ensnared himself in his old, harmful behaviors.

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