Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Save the Reaper” initially seems to be an ordinary story about a dysfunctional family. As measured against the childhood Eve remembers, her family is not happy. Both she and her daughter have had illegitimate children, though her daughter is now married, happily it seems. However, even though she and her daughter were close when Sophie was growing up, Sophie’s marriage has turned her away from her mother. They have not seen each other for five years. It is obvious to Eve that Sophie and the children have come only because Ian needed to be away at a library. Eve speculates that her daughter is desperate to leave. In addition, though Eve tries hard, she cannot really amuse the bratty young Philip. It is revealed that she disliked and made fun of her own mother and that she has not spoken to her brother in years.

Another theme is clear from the beginning of the story: Old ways are giving way to new ones. Alice Munro has stated that when she wrote this story she was aware of such changes in the lives of people of her generation. In this story, readers see not only the crumbling of the old and eccentric fence that had charmed Eve as a girl, but also changes in the village (a supermarket, high prices), in transport (airports, seat belts), and in the topics children talk about (space aliens). Eve seems to have adapted well to change, but the reader sympathizes when she seems to yearn for earlier and simpler days.

When Eve turns into the dark...

(The entire section is 442 words.)