Images by Alice Munro, 1968
The magic trick:
Telling the story and then telling what the story means
It’s Alice Munro Week again at the magic tricks site, and why not? Your argument against, if you even have one, falls on deaf ears.
“Images” is a very early Munro story, drawing from her childhood in rural Canada. Much of this feels autobiographical. And it’s enjoyable as such. Del, our narrator, spends the day with her dad. They run into their rather strange, slightly demented neighbor. They come home. But as it plods along you wonder, OK, but what’s the significance? What elevates this from mere childhood anecdote to literature? Where is the context?
And just when you think this story is going to end without rising above the level of charming episode, Munro hits us with the beautiful closing paragraph.
It’s all there – the context, the meaning, the lyricism. It might seem like an overly mechanical or obvious way to structure a story – telling the story and then telling the reader what it means – but it works brilliantly in this case. And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.
Like the children in fairy stories who have seen their parents make pacts with terrifying strangers, who have discovered that our fears are based on nothing but the truth, but who come back fresh from marvelous escapes and take up their knives and forks with humility and good manners, prepared to live happily ever after – like them, dazed and powerful with secrets, I never said a word.
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