Things within things: possible readings of Alice Munro’s “The Love of a Good Woman”

Ulrica Skagert

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    Alice Munro’s "The Love of a Good Woman" is perhaps one of the most important stories in her œuvre in terms of how it accentuates the motivation for the Nobel Prize of Literature: "master of the contemporary short story." The story was first published in The New Yorker in December 1996, and over 70 pages long it pushes every rule of what it means to be categorised as short fiction. Early critic of the genre, Edgar Allan Poe distinguished short fiction as an extremely focused attention to plot, properly defined as that to which "no part can be displaced wit- hout ruin to the whole". Part of Munro’s art is that of stitching seemingly disparate narrative threads together and still leaving the reader with a sense of complete- ness.

    The story’s publication in The New Yorker included a subtitle that is not part of its appearing in the two-year-later collection. The subtitle, "a murder, a mystery, a romance," is interesting in how it is suggestive for possible interpretations and the story’s play with genres. In a discussion of critical readings of Munro’s story, I propose that the story’s resonation of significance lies in its daring composition of narrative threads where depths of meaning keep occurring depending on what aspects one is focusing on for the moment. Further, I suggest that a sense of completion is created in tone and paralleling of imagery. Meaning emerges in what I have called a story’s "possibility-space." This term has affinities with what others have named "sideshadowing," where rather than resisting closure, the sto- ry turns back into itself, and compels the reader to further reflect on the difficult issues of human behaviour raised in the story.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventText Analysis Symposium at Kristianstad University, April 2014 -
    Duration: 1980-Jan-01 → …


    ConferenceText Analysis Symposium at Kristianstad University, April 2014
    Period80-01-01 → …

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Specific Literatures (60204)


    • alice munro
    • possibility-space
    • sideshadowing
    • text analysis
    • “the love of a good woman”


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