Meneseteung by Alice Munro, 1988
The magic trick:
Life wisdom at every turn
One of the truly great short stories we’ve looked at on SSMT. What can you even say? Munro explores the fundamentals of history, memory, truth, art. It’s such a rich story.
I couldn’t possibly try to explain or analyze the vast array of magic tricks here. So instead I will just highlight one minor detail, representative of the brilliance at work in this story. As Meda, our protagonist in the story, begins to imagine what a life with Jarvis Poulter might be. She daydreams about it fondly. But the rosy image takes on a slightly cloudier tint when she realizes that she will have to modify her relationship with the natural environment would have to change to suit her new relationship with this man.
Life is a compromise. Even in our daydreams.
It’s not the only key to this story. And this story isn’t the only story to share such wisdom. But I thought it was a wise point to make, and when every corner of a story is filled with such wisdom, every other structural decision the author makes is just window dressing.
And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.
Instead of calling for her and walking her to church, Jarvis Poulter might make another, move venturesome declaration. He could hire a horse and take her for a drive out to the country. If he did this, she would be both glad and sorry. Glad to be beside him, driven by him, receiving this attention from him in front of the world. And sorry to have the countryside removed from her – filmed over, in a way, by his talk and preoccupations. The countryside that she has written about in her poems actually takes diligence and determination to see. Some things must be disregarded.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.