Lives of Girls and Women Form and Content

Alice Munro

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women is a vivid and thorough depiction of a girl’s coming-of-age in a remote Canadian town. Written first as a series of seven short stories and later revised around an autobiographical structure, this realistic and uncompromising novel reveals the complex choices faced by a young teenager. Through the eyes of the ever-observant Del, the novel focuses on the frailties of relationships, the mixed messages offered to girls, and the ravages of decay and death. Del refuses to blink as she observes those “who all their lives could stay still, with no need to do or say anything remarkable.”

Each story illustrates Del’s progression from child to woman. The early stories focus on the fringe characters living on a remote country road known for its poverty, harshness, and lack of class. Subsequent stories show Del’s world expanding as she and her mother move to town. Watching the women and girls around her, Del notes the narrow gender roles that they have come to accept. In this intimate small town, where everyone knows everyone’s business, she is privy to the dark side. As she freely admits, she is no “stranger to killing.” She sees it on the fox farm and later in the suicides of townspeople. Fortunately, Del’s mother is a powerful example, a woman driven by her passion for knowledge and her struggle to make ends meet. Like her mother, Del is a seeker of knowledge. Ignoring her mother’s rejection of...

(The entire section is 549 words.)