Clearly, there is a double edge to Munro’s stories. The novel not only is about Del but also is the record of her own growth as a writer. As narrator and protagonist in each of the eight stories in Lives of Girls and Women, the reader witnesses not only significant episodes in her own life but also those snapshots of the lives of women she has known who enrich and inform hers. It is important that the definite article, “the,” is left off the title. These are “lives,” not “The Lives,” of girls and women. In this novel, Del’s initiation takes on a more universal quality, becoming a lens through which every woman’s movement toward selfhood and adulthood is elucidated.
Del’s experience of the eccentric (literally, that which is “off-center”), becomes the open door through which she discovers the eccentricity of all women in a male-dominated world. This revelation increases her powers of observation, narration, and empathy for her sisters living under the constraints foisted upon their gender.
The only other fully developed character in the novel besides Del is her mother, Ada. Del is fond of quoting things that she remembers her mother telling her at various junctures in her life, and in these anecdotal portions, Ada becomes as real and as vibrant as Del herself. All the other characters in the stories are peripheral, but precisely because of their pronounced periphery, they stand out. Munro appropriately concludes the novel by having Del craft an epilogue that explores how the truth of the extraordinary nature of the peripheral in everyday life can be told in fiction, captured in the lives of the “dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”