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“Passion”

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the story overall, but there are so many aspects of this story that I love and that I think Alice Munro excels at conveying to her readers. First, the story begins with the main character Grace, now in her 60’s, going back to visit the Travers’ old summer home. It is imperative that one go back and read the beginning and reread that portion after completing the short story because the reader now can draw more conclusions as to what is actually going on with Grace and going back to Ottawa Valley.

When Munro starts to talk about Grace’s meeting of the Travers family and the time they spent together, the reader can’t connect with her character. However, this is done intentionally. Grace is introduced to the family because one of the sons, Maury, is interested in her and as they start dating, there is little detail on their interactions together and it is evident that Grace doesn’t connect with anyone except for Mrs. Travers. The connection is more of a fascination for Grace and the reader can see that the detail when describing Mrs. Travers is significantly more intimate and emotional than when Maury is discussed. The fascination with Mrs. Travers could stem from Grace’s mother dying at a young age and has never felt quite “home” anywhere else than when she is with the Travers family.

Munro has done a great job of showing the difference in Grace before and after Neil, the other Travers son. Before the holiday gathering of the family, the reader will find it hard to connect with Grace’s character because she has little drive and no real emotions that link to anything that is going on her life except for the family life that Mrs. Travers expresses. There was no excitement in the her character’s voice about dating Maury and she didn’t seem to have any emotion to his wanting to marry her, “When we are married, he would say, and instead of questioning of contradicting him, Grace would listen curiously…None of this seemed real to her” (174). There is nothing but a blasé attitude about her future and Grace knows that Maury is boring, yet there is an acceptance to live passion-free with him, until a complete tone in the story shifts when it is time for the Travers family to all gather for the holidays.

When Grace meets Neil for the first time, it is almost romantically written that she cuts her foot and he arrives right after and she discovers that he is a doctor. Earlier on we do find out that Neil is married, but to an awful woman. I know I was hanging on the edge of my seat and riveted by the language Munro uses when Neil and Grace first interact. Grace notices the way he smells and she notices everything about him, “He had a high pale forehead, a crest of tight curly gray-black hair, bright gray eyes…” (180). The way the narrator lets us into Grace’s emotions is something very new in the story and gives the reader insight on the intimate feeling of their moment. The two have this oddly passionate day together which includes Grace taking care of him when he gets too drunk and all of the passion between them comes to a complete stop when she has a realization that there is no real substance to Neil. Perhaps it is hard to accurately describe the meaning behind all of these choices that Munro has made with this story because after Neil and Grace’s day together, the story ends so abruptly and I’m not even sure what exactly has happened. However, it is evident that Grace’s rollercoaster of tone and characterization ends in a surprising way when she is able to pursue a decent life from a large sum of money from Mr. Travers.

With all of my confusion towards the end of the story, I do applaud Munro in her ability to craft this exceptionally odd list of characters and portray so many varieties of emotion and…passion. Upon completion of the story, I went back and the narrator explains Grace’s return.

What was Grace really looking for when she had undertaken this expedition? Maybe the worst thing would have been to get just what she might have thought she was after.

While the ending is messy, it is compelling to understand that Grace was able to find some sort of life for herself even though it came at the expense of the Travers family: figuratively and literally. However, it is unsettling to see her come back since it gives us an unresolved feeling to the short story. Grace comes back, most likely out of some sort of guilt and confusion that she’s harbored for 40 years. The story is a tangle of inevitable doom and disconnect that eventually leads Grace imploring for answers and understanding as she comes back 40 years later to attempt to understand a part of her life that ended so well for her, but tragically and damaging for the Travers, whom she adored.

 

 

 

driving

 

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