Masterpieces of Women's Literature Lives of Girls and Women Analysis - Essay

Alice Munro

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Lives of Girls and Women Analysis

Lives of Girls and Women is an intensely female story of initiation. Del loses her innocence through sexual experience, loss of confidence in her family, and questioning of religious faith. By juxtaposing Del’s everyday experience and the darker world of the tabloids, suicide, tragedy, and despair, Munro explores the doubleness in all people, suggesting that women in Del’s time were forced to live much of their lives in their fantasies. Del’s inner life compensates her for Jubilee’s limitations and provides a way of establishing her identity. Various women in the novel represent different paths that are available to Del: bitterness, eccentricity, domesticity, romance, or the intellect. She tries them all and is dissatisfied, knowing that she must, as her mother tells her, find her own way.

Throughout the novel Del questions the way things are. She looks at her rather ordinary life in a small town and sees complex drama; she sees the dark side to the real world in Uncle Benny’s distorted vision, the selfish side of sexuality with Mr. Chamberlain, and the tragic possibility in an ordinary character like Miss Farris. From the time she was very young, she viewed reading as an escape and a saving grace; books and writing, as she notes in the epilogue, are ways of trying to rescue the past and impose order and understanding on it. Reading leads her to question authority; her attempt to become religious, as well as her disillusionment, are other ways of rebelling.

The novel is autobiographical in form, but Munro took care to note that it is not autobiographical in fact. Although events have the quality of immediacy,...

(The entire section is 675 words.)