Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Save the Reaper” is a third-person, limited omniscience story. Readers, experiencing the story through Eve’s mind as she reflects on the present and the past, get to know her well and sympathize with her. She comes across as a nice woman, genuinely hopeful, yet painfully sensitive to what others may be thinking. Occasionally Munro inserts some hurtful dialogue in parentheses, dialogue that the reader soon guesses is occurring in Eve’s imagination. Eve is also painfully frank with herself about what is happening to her. At the end, she knows the danger she is in.

Events in the present proceed in an orderly time sequence but are frequently interrupted by Eve’s memories, memories that slowly reveal the story’s meaning. For example, Eve does not reflect on Sophie’s conception until after the prostitute has made her pass.

As the story begins, it seems to be ordinarily realistic. The details of the car ride and of Philip’s space alien game are conventionally banal. However, when Eve’s imagination is stirred by the gatepost, the prose becomes surreal. Eve remembers the pictures made by the bits of glass: “Triangular Christmas trees and tropical-colored birds half as big as the trees, a fat horse with dinky legs and burning red eyes, curly blue rivers of unvarying width, like lengths of ribbon, a moon and drunken stars and fat sunflowers nodding over the roofs of houses.” Eve’s vivid imagination is at odds with what to this...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Franzen, Jonathan. “Alice’s Wonderland.” The New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2004, 1, 14-16.

Howells, Coral Ann. Alice Munro. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1998.

McCulloch, Jeanne, and Mona Simpson. “The Art of Fiction CXXXVII.” Paris Review 131 (Summer, 1994): 226-264.

Moore, Lorrie. “Leave Them and Love Them.” The Atlantic Monthly 294, no. 5 (December, 2004): 125.

Munro, Sheila. Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.

Ross, Catherine Sheldrick. Alice Munro: A Double Life. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992.

Simpson, Mona. “A Quiet Genius.” The Atlantic Monthly 288, no. 5 (December, 2001): 126.