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Alice Munro’s “How I Met My Husband”, Essay Example

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Essay

The story “How I met Your Mother” (1974) by Alice Munro forwards a theme about the connection between love and ambition and the loss of innocence.  Because the story is told from the point of view of a fifteen year old girl, the story must be considered to be concerned with the experience of girls and women. To this extent, the theme of the story is that which concerns the connection between love and ambition in the lives of American women. the story shows how the association that young women in American  culture feel exists between their dreams and the idea of love and marriage is pervasive and also ironic. The story adopts a narrative tone of youthful innocence that remains despite the bittersweet ending. Ditsky, in the study  The Figure in the Linoleum: The Fictions of Alice Munro (1985) makes note that while Munro’s fiction is usally occupied with women’s experience she is far from being typical feminist writer.

Ditsky writes that “Her observations about the way in which women are put upon in the world she writes about, or the world she inhabits, are not really different in nature from the ones she makes about the lot of the poor, or of the lower classes generally” (Ditsky, 1985). This is important to keep in mind because Munro is not trying to rebel against the traditional themes of love and marriage in the story; rather she is trying to use both narrative tone and symbolism to show a process of initiation.   The element of narrative tone is extremely important in conveying the sense of innocence and initiation that is at the root of the story’s meaning. The emotional impact of the narrative style, which is told in first-person through largely conversational language, gives the story the flavor of a diary entry or confession to a close friend. This narrative technique fits very well with the plot of the story by involving the reader at an intimate level.

In Ditsky’s analysis, the basic plot of the story is essential in creating a believable narrative tone and for gaining the reader’s sympathy and interest. Ditsky observes that “the narrator–a maid–waits in vain for a letter from a barnstorming pilot.” The full irony of tehs tory is revealed when the pilot never writes or returns and as a consequence the narrator “contrives to marry the mailman”  (Ditsky, 1985). The humorous aspect of this ending blunts th otherwise tragic loss of innocence that accompanies the narrator’s disappointment at never seeing the airman again. The symbolism of the airman and his plane is obvious: they symbolize freedom from the everyday drudgery of the narraror’s life as a cleaning girl. The plane and airman also symbolize the exoticism and exaltation that young girls romantically associate with love and marriage. The pilot’s refusal to return or write is symbolic of the narrator’s loss of innocence.

Another important symbol that is used in the story is that of water. When the narrator and the airman first meet, he is holding an empty pail and he is looking for water. The narrator shows him how to fill his pail from the pump. This symbolism is very deft because water symbolizes life energy. the narrator is a source of vivacity and life to the airman. this helps to create reader sympathy for the narrator and also to make her infatuation with the airman credible.  The cohesion between the airman and plane as symbols of escape and freedom with the symbol of water as life-energy brings a sense of imperative to the story. the reader feels, instinctively due to Munro’s use of symbolism that the airman and the narrator would make a good match. The let-down at the story’s end is that rater than finding a romantic love-affair and marriage, the narrator has found a more “grounded” and pedestrian life with the mailman. Whether or not the story should be viewed as a tragedy or as a triumph of the narrator’s renewed life-energy is left up to the reader. It may be that the narrator’s heart was broken or that she simply grew out of her youthful innocence into a woman who retained her zest for life but lost her desire for larger-than-life escapism. Most reader probably feel that the ending is a combination of these two scenarios. In either case, the narrator has changed from where she began at the story’s opening and she has become wiser without fully sacrificing her youthful optimism.

References

Ditsky, J. (1985). The Figure in the Linoleum: The Fictions of Alice Munro. Hollins Critic, 22(3), 1+.

Martin, W. R. (1987). Alice Munro: Paradox and Parallel. Edmonton, Alta.: University of Alberta Press.

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