By Karen E. Smythe
A textual research of the narrative approach wherein mourning is portrayed within the brief fiction of up to date writers Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro. attracts on versions from Woolf and Joyce to increase a poetics of elegy that may be utilized to different glossy fiction-elegists.
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Additional resources for Figuring Grief: Gallant, Munro, and the Poetics of Elegy
In biblical law (in the Book of Matthew) stones are thrown as a form of punishment; the act also functions as an accusation of some kind of sexual sin, such as prostitution. To accuse is to label, to name. The protagonist's name, Miss Horeham, is appropriate then - despite the fact that she remains sexually inactive as an adult - because incestuous activity is suggested throughout the story. Other items in her box that have symbolic significance are her father's butterfly collection, stored in a glass box (52), and the letters her father wrote to her when she was a schoolgirl (53), addressed in a subtly amorous tone.
Thus the reader is not only "disturbed" and abandoned, as Keefer suggests, but is stimulated by the disturbing events and characters to become actively involved in the rebuilding of the fiction-elegy. Character limitations, then, often can move the reader to move beyond disturbance. Another early third-person story that demonstrates a failure of consolation for the character is "An Emergency Case" (1957), not collected until In Transit was published (1988). Again the significant events of the story have happened before the story begins: a little boy, Oliver, has been in a car accident with his parents, who did not survive.
Bernadette's story displaces Robbie's self-elegy, and shows its relative insignificance, thereby calling the Knights' values into question. Nora Knight resembles an unsuccessful Mrs Dalloway whose "party had gone wrong" (32); her failure became "a symbol of the end" of her world (37). Nora is also a failed reader, one who pieces together a plausible story from events and conversations but mistakenly accuses her husband of impregnating Bernadette. Readers are positioned outside of Bernadette's naive frame of reference and must evaluate her ideas of life, death, and religious consolation as well as those of the Knights.