Alice Munro

What elements of class and gender impact the short stories? How was Munro influenced by culture and history? How does her work adequately represent time and beliefs of the time?

In Open Secrets by Alice Munro, it is clear that she meant for the only segregated group in a society is women that wish to live in a devoted relationship with their tyrants who made them feel segregated in the first place. Women, who avoid falling for this unaltruistic idea in the past, suffer hardships from the rest of society as well, including those same women. Alice Munro fashioned her short stories “The Albanian Virgin” and “Carried Away” using the element of femininity to make her story reflect beliefs and culture of the time period and place.

Alice Munro shaped her short story “Carried Away” with the element of femininity to help better express the beliefs and culture of the time. Through this, it is understood that Louisa is a complete outsider period exactly because of the beliefs and the time period. The time during World War I, where the story starts, women were of a lesser class compared to men. The men were the ones who were expected to fight for their country while the women were expected to basically take care of the children.  If not already married, women were expected to find a husband, which is indeed what the main character, Louisa, is expected to do. Inside this culture in the United States, women were expected to find a husband who will support them since women were also expected to take care of their children instead of working at a job. This is especially prevalent in World War I. While the men were away to fight in the war, the women were expected to have full watch on the children, day in and day out. It was their primary job. As stated before, if not this, then it was to marry and then achieve this (Anthias, 2000).

When Louisa first appears in the story, Munro describes her as a single woman who works at a library and is unfamiliar with the territory because she just moved there. Already, Alice Munro sets the foundation of the story in that Louisa is isolated and strange compared to the ideals of women of the time period. There were little to none occupations for women to rightfully be happy to fulfill. Men were the ones expected work for money to support their family (Gilmore, 1990). Louisa is not married and has no one to support her, so she takes a job as a librarian. In the short story, Munro describes Louisa’s job as dry, boring, and dull. Barely anyone walks into the library to check out a book and Louisa is must suffer through this unflavored occupation in order to keep a living. Louisa is viewed as an outsider because women in that time did not work a job, and had different ideals than that of Louisa’s (Greenwald, 1980). These ideally reflect the beliefs of the time period during World War I. It is no wonder that Louisa is deemed the way she is, because she does not reflect the ideals of the time period for women. By making Louisa an outsider for matters that are insignificant, Munro expressed the beliefs and culture of the United States.

In short story, “The Albanian Virgin”, Alice Munro uses the element of femininity to help better express the beliefs and culture of the time period and place. Lottar, who is traveling in the mountains in Maltsia e madhe, is taken and forced to live the life with a foreign and unfamiliar tribe in Albania. Like Louisa, Lottar is isolated, and outsider and unhappy due to the differing cultures between her culture and theirs. This sets the foundation in Munro’s short story. Lottar is expected to achieve the same things as Louisa is expected to achieve meaning finding a husband, but in different context. Inside this particular short story, religion is much more a dictator to its main character, Louisa. Munro provides a clear and concise overview of the culture in Albania and much of the world by creating two different groups of people that practice a different religion. One can indefinitely understand the issues between the two groups of people from the ample amount of history expressing the raging problems between different religions. Also, Munro entwines the time period along with religion so one can understand how exactly society deemed women back then. Women, similar to Louisa, were expected to cook, clean, take care of the children, etc. while the men would work at a job, serve in wars if they must, and so on (Giele, 1977). The beliefs of these people are not strange from that time due to the massive amounts of religion that went along with them (Fogarty, 1971).

In the story, Islamic men would take the women from Lottar’s side to marry and never come back. A Muslim man wants to marry Lottar, and the priest who chose to look after Lottar chooses that she must become a Virgin, one who basically pretends to be a man and never gets married. After all this time of doom that is felt for Lottar, there is finally hope for her. If she were to become a Virgin, she would not have to marry the foreign man, nor would she have to be forced to follow the other women around and do the dull, boring work they all must do. Through becoming a Virgin, Lottar, to an extent, finally has a bit of freedom, more so than before that is. Before, she was just a woman in a society where women were deemed of a lower class to men (Bracewell, 1996).  Now, she is able to do achieve some of what the men do.

Alice Munro fashioned her short stories “The Albanian Virgin” and “Carried Away” using the element of femininity to make her story reflect beliefs and culture of the time period and place. She achieves producing a trying story of a woman who may have made mistakes in her past but want for the best and serve for the better. This is exactly what makes them such an outsider; they have a kind, but revolutionary heart that sets examples from generation to generation to set out to achieve and finish.



Works Cited

Anthias, Floya, and Gabriella Lazaridis. Gender and Migration in Southern Europe: Women on the Move. Oxford: Berg, 2000. Print.

Bracewell, Wendy. Women, Motherhood, and Contemporary Serbian Nationalism. Vol. 19. London: Elsevier, 1996. 25-33. Print. 1-2.

Fogarty, Michael Patrick., Rhona Rapoport, and Robert N. Rapoport. Sex, Career and Family: Including an International Review of Women’s Roles. London: Allen & Unwin, 1971. Print.

Gilmore, David D. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1990. Print.

Giele, Janet Zollinger., and Audrey C. Smock. Women: Roles and Status in Eight Countries. New York: Wiley, 1977. Print.

Greenwald, Maurine Weiner. Women, War, and Work: The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1980. Print.

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