How I Met My Husband

by Alice Munro

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Characters

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Alice Kelling—fiancée of Chris Watters

Chris Watters—a pilot who intends to sell rides on his airplane while living in a tent at the fairgrounds

Edie—a fifteen-year-old who works for the Peebles

Joey and Heather Peebles—the Peebles’ two children

Loretta Bird—a working-class neighbor

Dr. Peebles—a veterinarian who is married to Mrs. Peebles

Mrs. Peebles—Dr. Peebles’s wife; she does not relish domestic chores and so hires Edie

The mailman—a shy young man who eventually marries Edie

Character Analysis

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Alice Kelling arrives wearing sunglasses, and Edie immediately notices that her bust looks “rather low and lumpy,” she has a “worried face,” and her hands are freckled and wrinkled. Alice is a worn woman, her sunglasses symbolizing that she deludes herself and does not see the world clearly. Even though Watters has left clear clues that he is no longer interested in her, Alice continues to wait for him, even hunting him down to claim him. She is unhappy because she has held onto dreams that will never come true, and in this way she represents what Edie needs to avoid as she makes choices in her own life.

Chris Watters represents the freedom men have in a male-dominated society, his carefree life transcending all the versions of domesticity elsewhere in the story. He embodies romance: a man that loves ’em and leaves ’em, not cruelly but in a way that can delude. If Watters represents promises of romance, he also provides Edie the opportunity to grow and understand that she wants more out of life than waiting for a dream to come true and more, too, than his own restlessness will ever provide.

Loretta Bird criticizes Mrs. Peebles for napping and complains that she, Loretta, only eats home-canned fruit even though, as Edie tells us, “she never put down fruit in her life.” Edie is relieved Loretta did not catch her wearing Mrs. Peebles’s dress, for if she had, Edie is sure she would have told on her. Because Loretta lives an insignificant life, she intrudes on and judges the lives of those around her. “Some of them are that ignorant,” she says of Edie, while she condescendingly tells Alice, “Don’t get yourself upset,” adding with a pretense of worldly wisdom, “Men are all the same.” Mrs. Peebles tolerates Loretta but does not enjoy her, calling her at one point “that Bird woman.” Loretta provides another example of an unfulfilled woman: she is unhappy, yet, lacking self-knowledge, she will not change.

Edie seems wiser than her fifteen years. She dislikes the judgmental Loretta Bird, understands that Mrs. Peebles’s lifestyle is privileged, is responsible about her household duties, and is quick to realize she is more attractive than Alice is. For that reason, she trots over to Watters’s tent bearing a cake and, when he kisses her, kisses him back. However, in other ways she is innocent and young: she enjoys dressing up in Mrs. Peebles’s dress, is flattered when Watters tells her she is beautiful, and does not understand the difference between kissing and the sort of intimacy of which she is later accused. She believes Watters when he says, “I’m going to write you a letter,” not understanding that his remark, “Would you like that?” indicates he is only trying to please her for the moment. Her willingness to believe in the romantic notion that this prince in a shiny airplane will one day carry her off into the sky keeps her going to the mailbox, waiting for a letter that never comes. Her later recognition that she does not want to be the...

(This entire section contains 727 words.)

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sort of woman who spends her life waiting enables her to snap out of the dream and into reality.

Dr. Peebles is a kind husband who wants to give his wife a better life by hiring someone to help her around the house, and he is warm enough to invite Alice to stay at their house when she comes looking for Watters. He has a fundamental sense of what is important, too, for he understands that Edie is smart even though she averaged only a 37% her first year of high school. Unlike Watters, Dr. Peebles fulfills promises, but still he lacks the earthy vitality that a woman such as Edie will need in a man.

Mrs. Peebles is as kind as her husband, but she recognizes the difference in status between herself and Edie. Although she “allows” Edie to eat with the family, she still conducts the household in such a way that Edie “knows her place” in it. Significantly, she sees through both Alice and Loretta, happy when they both leave after they interrogate Edie, and she is compassionate with Edie when she realizes the extent of her innocence and is ready to protect the girl’s dignity when the other women insult her.

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