‘Dance Of The Happy Shades’ by Alice Munro

Munro, Alice 1968f

Dance Of The Happy Shades by Alice Munro, 1968

The magic trick:

Using a first-person narrator who is young but very capable of giving the reader a complete picture of the story

We follow up yesterday’s Alice Munro battle of the generations with a story touching on similar themes in the wonderful “Dance Of The Happy Shades.”

The narration is very interesting here. Munro uses immature, child narrators in several stories in the Happy Shades collection, and the title story features narration from a girl who is probably a teenager. We know she lives with her mother still, at least, though it’s not clear exactly how old she is.

What’s interesting is the narrator’s level of insight. A lot of times you get a child narrator whose ignorance of the world holds back information from the reader. Not here.

Our narrator here gives us the lowdown on everything in the town. We get the total picture about Miss Marsalles, her strange parties and the town’s reactions to them. It’s almost like we’re getting a third-person omniscient narration from a personal point of view. In the present tense! And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.

The selection:

Miss Marsalles is having another party. (Out of musical integrity, or her heart’s bold yearning for festivity, she never calls it a recital.) My mother is not an inventive or convincing liar, and the excuses which occur to her are obviously second-rate. The painters are coming. Friends from Ottawa. Poor Carrie is having her tonsils out. In the end all she can say is: Oh, but won’t that be too much trouble, now? Now being weighted with several troublesome meanings; you may take your choice. Now that Miss Marsalles has moved from the brick and frame bungalow on Bank Street, where the last three parties have been rather squashed, to an even smaller place – if she has described it correctly – on Bala Street. (Bala Street, where is that?) Or: now that Miss Marsalles’ older sister is in bed, following a stroke; now that Miss Marsalles herself – as my mother says, we must face these things – is simply getting too old.

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