Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Munro believes that the individual’s true emotional, psychological, moral, and cerebral motivations are complex and elusive. Consequently, human experience cannot really be portrayed in any objective, categorical way. The brief but poignant incident from Rose’s life illustrates clearly Munro’s artistic credo. She inclusively suggests various ways of interpreting Rose’s experience, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.

In her deliberate and skillful use of ambiguity in depicting Rose’s response to the liberties taken by the United Church minister, Munro wants the reader not only to know but also to experience how difficult it is at times for the individual to separate fantasy from reality. Narrated strictly from Rose’s point of view, the story allows the reader into her consciousness, making it possible to experience vicariously the overwhelming force of fantasy and imagination.

Responding to the story as a portrayal of an actual seduction leads the reader into a consideration of society’s immorality and hypocrisy and, more important, of Rose’s motivations in reacting the way she does. Is she an innocent experiencing awakening sensuality? The narrator suggests that her acquiescence to the minister’s probing hand is not sensuality or passivity but an overpowering appetite for experience: “Curiosity. More constant, more imperious, than any lust. A lust in itself, that will make you draw back and wait, wait too long,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)