The obvious and secret psychologisms in alice munro’s prose

The short story genre starting its development from 1890s as a national genre of English Canadian literature is still valued as a famous narrative form of recent years by the writers.

The researcher Nishik Reingard in his article «The Canadian Short Story: Status, criticism, historical survey» published in the book «The Canadian Short story» pays attention to the historical development of English-Canadian short story and emphasizes that this form of prose became the leading genre of the XXI century Canadian literature. Mentioning the modern short story writers’ names as Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant an Alice Munro, the investigator Nishik Reingard speaks about these writer’s achievements in the sphere of this genre [1, 208]. Alice Munro (1931) differs from these two female writers with her appealing only short story genre.

Alice Munro managed to raise the short story genre to its worthy level in the Canadian Literature. Besides it, she proved being the honor of Canada with entering the list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2005 and 2010 arranged by The Time before getting Nobel Prize (2013), with gaining Governor General’s Award for five times («Dance of the Happy Shades» – 1968, «Who do you think you are?» – 1978, «The progress of love» – 1986, «The Moons of Jupiter» – 1982, «Open and Secrets» – 1994) and Giller Award wined twice («The Love of a Good Woman» – 1998? «Runaway» – 2004), the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work and O. Henry Award for continuing achievement in short fiction in the U.S and so many.

The Canadian writer describes the characters’ lives with its sharp turning and progress and slopes caused the moral crises. The each page of author’s short stories may be considered the slide of real life. Alice Munro, being the master of describing anxious female moral world is called «the writer, writing about women for women».

The fruitful creative activity of Alice Munro who made a goal to publish the collection of stories after each four-five years beginning from 1968 to 2012, had been investigated towards different aspects in the thesis and articles by some researches. This article was dedicated to the investigation of the obvious and secret psychologisms in some short stories of the collection «The Moons of Jupiter». Firstly, we present the ideas of some scholars investigating «The Moons of Jupiter».

Christine Somerville drew first five collections of stories belonging to Alice Munro’s literary heritage into investigation and enlightening the social-moral problems in The Canadian writer’s stories, she analyzed the writer’s writing techniques. The investigator fairly emphasize that Alice Munro tries to puff out the damages in the woman-society, woman-man, woman-children relationships in all her short forms of prose especially in «The Moons of Jupiter»: «Moons looks at aspects of women’s lives which change little from one generation to the next, examining the extent of their dependence upon men, and showing how they continue to need men despite greater possibilities for female independence than existed in their mother’s day» [2, 171].

But Paul Rogalus compares A. Munro’s works, her narrative technique with the writing style of modern prose writers as J. Joyce and E. Hemingway and makes parallels between them: «Her early stories provide revealed meanings –moments of insight similar to the epithanies in James Joyce’s stories – first into small scale, very private individual problems in «Dance of the Happy Shades», then in «Something I’ve been Meaning to Tell You», to large social issues. Yet, in most of the stories in these collections, the point of view characters never come to understand the entire «truth» of their situations.

Later in the middle period of her career, Munro shows life as less coherent, more mysterious. In the stories of «The Beggar Maid» and «The Moons of Jupiter» Munro uses fragmentary techniques somewhat similar to those in early Hemingway’s stories in order to illustrate the chaotic nature of her characters’ life» [3, 129]

Mayberry Katherine analyzing A. Munro’s narrative style says that «1977 volume Moons of Jupiter is one of Munro’s most intensely focused examinations of the capabilities and limitations of narrative» [4, 1].

But Papp Carrington disliking method of approaching to the Alice Munro’s works’ analysis of some scholars as V. R. Martin [5] and E. D. Blodgett [6], thinks of investigating Canadian writer’s prose chronologically is erroneous. P. Carrington divides Munro’s work into four categories, according to her major thematic patterns and thinks it expedient to investigate due to that division: the scholar presented groups deal with the stories about the eruption of external violence, fear of death, characters struggling for power, primarily the power to control sexual encounters, love affairs, and marriages, relationships between parents and daughters, esp. mother and daughter. Papp Carrington thinks that «The Moons of Jupiter» is «a look at the persistent psychological puzzle of women’s masochistic complicity in their own humiliation» [7, 114].

The innovation of our research work is to apply the uninvestigated sphere in A. Munro’s prose that’s to analyse and find out psychologisms in her short stories. There are two forms of psychologisms that’s psychological depiction: obvious and secret. The scholor A.Yasin being the perminent figure in the literary-theoretical sphere, calls obvious psychologism «direct» but secret psychologism

«indirect». Obvious psychologism depicts the character through psycholigical self-analysis. Psycholigical self-analysis, interior monologue, dialogue, letter, confession, diary, dream, direct speech, stream of conscious, soul dialectics can be considered the means of expression of obvious psychologism.

Secret psychologisms are the expression of characters’ inner world through outside – psychological analysis. The means of expression of secret psychologism are potrait, landscape, interier, commentary including to literary details.

Alice Munro who lived in the mixture of two centuries, posessing speciefic place among short story writers, considering to be the honour of Canadian Literature used both of the forms of psychologism – obvious and secret in her prose.

Alice Munro got Governor General’s Award for the 3rd time for «The Moons of Jupiter» in 1982. The first Canadian Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro was awarded with the above mentioned prize for «Dance of Happy Shades» in 1968 and «Who do you think you are?» – 1978.

Twelve short stories are included to the collection «The Moons of Jupiter» named «Chaddeleys and Flemings 1: Connection», «Chaddeleys and Flemings 2: The stone in the Field», «Dulse», «The turkey season», «Accident», «Bardon Bus»,«Prue», «Labor Day Dinner», «Mrs.Cross and Mrs.Kidd», «Hard luck stories», «Visitors».

The story «Chaddeleys and Flemings» consists of two parts. The first part named «Connection» speaks of narrator’s – woman writer’s maternity relatives, but the second part called «The stone in the field» deals with the narrator’s father realtives.

In «Connection» the events are narrated by the main character. Aunt Iris’s wish to visit the narrator’s home opens the ways for some memories. Alice Munro presents her hero’s inner-psychological feelings, secret and open thoughts with the character’s speech using obvious psychologisms as the character’s self-analysis, interior monologue, confession, stream of conscious, memory in this story.

Our hero recollects the childish years when mother’s sisters Iris, Isabella, Flour, Winifred entertained at them, their heated discussion of being Enlish ancestors and of their grandfather’s life. This cloud of recollection disappears under the voice of her husband Richard. The hero gives commentary of herself and the mechanism of interior monologue begins to work. It becomes clear that our hero is married with a man named Richard. They have got two children and settled in a nice house in Vancouver city. After a long years parting the idea of aunt Iris’s visiting them arrose in her the wish to create a selfconfident, respected in the society woman image before aunts’ eyes: «I longed for the visit to go well. I wanted this for my own sake. My motives were not such as would do me credit. I wanted Cousin Iris to shine forth as a relative nobody need be ashamed of, and I wanted Richard and his money and our house to lift me forever, in Cousin Irish’s eyes, out of the category of poor relation» [9, 3].

The hero’s interior monologue lightens the secret wishes and desires felt by her. Her aim is to hold Aunt Iris up as an example who worked once as a hospital nurse to Richard and prove him that even in the poor, distant country there may live socialized men and wanted to confirm and increase self-worth before husband’s eyes showing her relatives to be rich of such intelligent people.

From the early days of their marriage she realized that closed her life with a man who struggled not only against her relatives but also her speech, behavior and habits. Richard kept in secret the fact of her being from the village from his friends and tried to part once and for all her from her accent making feel shame especially in high social parties and raise her to his own level: «Richard had put himself in a chancy position, marrying me. He wanted me amputated from that past which seemed to him such shabby baggage; he was on the lookout for signs that the amputation wasn’t complete» [9, 3].

The narrator was waiting for her aunt to come to dinner. While laying the dinner table she was debating with Richard inside: «I started thawing a leg of lamb and made a lemon meringue pie. Lemon meringue pie was what my mother made when the aunts were coming. She polished the dessert folks, she ironed the table napkins. For we owned dessert folks (I wanted to say to Richard); yes, and we had table napkins» [9, 3].

Lemon meringue pie awoke some associations dealing with her mother and these associations are ended by the attempts to prove opposite to Richard who reproached her with her uncivilized country life. While laying the table the stream of conscience involved her to self-analysis, self-examine and our hero tries to realize herself: «But surely none of this mattered to me, none of this nonsense about dessert folks? Was I, am I, the sort of person who thinks that to possess such objects is to have a civilized attitude to life? No, not at all; not exactly: yes and no» [9, 3]. At the end of the story the narrator living under constant moral suppression and fear of censorship of her speech and deeds couldn’t control herself against Richard’s grumbling and humiliation of her aunt. Richard’s dissatisfaction and boastfulness intensified her nerves and couldn’t stop herself from throwing cake plate over her husband’s face.

Although Alice Munro spoke of the narrator’s maternity relatives in «Connection», «The Stone in the Field» deals with her father relatives – the Flemings. The author used secret psychologisms as portrait, depiction of landscape and interior. Literary details are presented by the narrator’s speech.

In the story «The Stone in the Field» the narrator’s father is a brother of eight sisters. The Flemings live poorly far from the civil life as if they were the people of other era, generation. «There was no sign of frivolity, no indication that the people who lived here ever sought entertainment: no radio; no newspapers or magazines; certainly no books» [9, 6]. The author tries to enlighten the life of lonely people isolated from the society with the help of such a depiction of interior. The daily works, the cares of fields, cornfields and firms decorate their life. Alice Munro presents literary portrait of these women: «They all looked about fifty, older than my parents but not really old. They were all lean and fine-boned, and might at one time have been fairly tall, but were stopped now, with hard work and deference. Some had their haircut short in a plain, childish style; some had it braided and twisted on top of their heads. Nobody’s hair was entirely black or entirely gray. Their faces were pale, eyebrows thick and furry, eyes deep-set and bright, blue-gray or green-gray or gray. They looked a good deal like my father though he did not stoop, and his face had opened up in a way that theirs had not, to make him a handsome man» [9, 5]. By the means of literary portrait the author can deeply introduce these unmarried women depending on hard working regime to the readers. The narrator feels shame of her aunts. The city life took her in its arms too. Alienation runs in his blood. The congratulation postcards sent by aunts during every Christmas holiday arose two contrast feelings in her: on one hand she thinks it to be a business of jobless people, on other hand she felt guilty for being indifferent to her past, root, ancestors. The narrator now lives in Vancouver and the news of one of her aunts’ death doesn’t shake her. The writer includes two different characters into the short story: Poppy Cullender, the antiquary shop assistant and Mr. Black, living in the neighborhood with the narrator’s aunts. These characters are presented in the comparison with the old women and makes parallels. So their lives also pass traceless. Their death makes surroundings get rid of a pain of human contact. Mr. Black is buried in his own field under the big stone. The narrator’s father pulled down Mr. Black’s home and privatized it. As if there lived no men as Poppy and Black in this world. So, Alice Munro emphasizes that not only to forget of your past but also to be forgotten is the inevitable fact of the destiny.

The main character of the story «Dulse» is Lydia having been divorced after 9 years of marriage, mother of two children. She is a lady of 45 who is on the way of losing her youth, self-assurance, beauty and attractiveness. The author presents her psychological portrait in this way: «It was that people were no longer so interested in getting to know her…she hadn’t got fatter or thinner, her looks hadn’t deteriorated in any alarming way, but nevertheless she had stopped being one sort of woman and had become another» [9, 8].

She has parted from Duncan, the writer of historical novels almost a year and a half. In order to return back her pre-marriage years’ self-assurance, she came to Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy to stay alone with her loneliness. The author makes Lydia meet with Mr. Stanley who was fond of Willa Cather’s books. «From 1922 to 1942 when World war II was breaking Western civilization into pieces, Cather spent most summers on Grand Manan island in the Bay of Fundy. Grand Manan assumes a similar therapeutic function for Lydia, the main character in Munro’s story «Dulse», even though Lydia stayed there only overnight. Grand Manan also provides a strong connection between Munro and Cather since more than a quarter of the story is directed about Cather herself» [8, p.102].

American writer Willa Cather (1873-1947) used to write the majority of her works in a lonely rented room with the open window to the ocean on the Grand Manan Island. The name of Willa Cather’s novel «The Lost Lady» is not mentioned in vain in «Dulse». Alice Munro’s secret allusion is felt: Lydia is also «a lost lady» who prefers to run away from self-feelings, incoherent thoughts, «I» that’s floundered under the social reproach and to be lost temporary from the sight in the uncivilized island.

Lydia have talks with the owner of rent house John and his wife, Mr. Stanley and 3 workers Lawrence, Eugene and Vincent who came to the island to arrange telephone lines. The literary – psychological portrait of these characters makes a clear idea of them: «Lawrence the boss wasn’t yet forty, but he was successful. He was a freelance labor contractor and owned two houses in st. Stephen. He had two cars and a truck and a boat. His wife taught at school. Lawrence was getting a thick waist, a trucker’s belly, but he still looks alert and vigorous. You could see that he would be shrewd enough, in most situations for his purposes. And certain places and people might be capable of making him gloomy, uncertain, and contentious» [9, p.10].

«Eugene and Vincent who worked for Lawrence said that they had never got past grade eight .... Eugene was twenty-five and Vincent was fifty-two.... Eugene looked younger than his age. He had a rosy color, a downy, dreamy, look a masculine beuty that was nevertheless soft-edged, sweeet-tempered, bashful. You could see thet his natural tone was one of rumbling, easy mockery. He was sharp and sly but not insistent; he would always be able to say the most pessimistic things and not sound unhappy» [9, 10].

«Vincent had a farm – it was his family’s farm where he had grown up, near St.Stephen. Vincent’s wife works too; she took a course and leaned to do hair. His sons aren’t hardworking like their parents…. Vincent had no teeth …. His face was long and his chin tucked in, his glance unchallenging but unfooled. He was a lean man, with useful muscles, and graying black hair. You could see all the years of hard work on him and some years of it ahead, and the body just equal to it, until he turned into a ropyarmed old man, shrunken, uncomplaining, hanging on to a few jokes» [9, 10].

Presenting the literary – psychological portrait of Lawrence, Eugene and Vincent by the speech of Lydia, Alice Munro makes the reader to stay alone with our hero’s inner-moral contradictions and hesitations: «Should she have stayed in the place where love is managed for you, not gone when you have to invent it and reinvent it and never know if these efforts will be enough?» [9, 12].

Lydia is in the deep depression. She preferred marrying with simple farmer as Lawrence, Eugene or Vincent and leading as common life as the majority leads to the marriage with a landowner trying to change her and equal to his own social level. Lydia wanted to throw Duncan from her memories at all. But the shock on her inner «I» that’s the fact of not be loved throwing away as a useless thing, morally overpowered her. The matter doesn’t deal with Duncan or anybody else. The main matter is her femininity pride, worthy to be abased. In order to introduce Duncan deeply to the readers, A. Munro appeals to the memories of under conscience that hurt Lydia. Once upon a time the couple were on the way to Peterborough. As they stopped at the petrol station, Lydia went to the lavatory to make up. Her attempt to make herself more attractive and beautiful ends in quarrel with Duncan:

«– What have you done to your face?» he said when she came back to the car.

  • Makeup. I put some makeup on so I’d look more cheerful.
  • You can see where the line stops, on your neck» [9,12].

Lydia talking of this event to her psychologist after a long time, marks it like this: «The gap between what she wanted and what she could get. She believed that Duncan’s love for her was somewhere inside him, and that by gigantic efforts to please or fits of distress which obliterated all those efforts, or tricks of indifference, she could claw or lure it out» [9, 12].

But Lydia’s answer to psychologist’s question «When do you feel happy?» more clearly presents moral – psychological sphere of this couple’s relationship: «When he is pleased with me. When he’s joking and enjoying himself. No, No I’m never happy. I’m relieved. It’s as if I’d overcome a challenge, it’s more triumphant than happy. But he can always pull the rug out» [9, 12]. The hard destiny of women accepting the moral slavery officially is more thinkable problem for Alice Munro. Alice Munro’s other short story «Accident» presents the main character’s – 30 aged music teacher Frances’s inner – moral – psychological feelings to the reader. The reader is aware of the love affairs between Frances and Ted with whom she worked at the same school at the beginning of the story. Ted is already married. His wife Greta and his two sons live in Hanratty. The culmination of the work is the scene of Ted’s getting the news of his son Bobby’s death of car accident. When Ted got this news he was secretly meeting with Frances. As a fact at that high time it was not Bobby who died immediately after car accident but O’Heir his fellow. But Bobby deeply wounded. He was taken to Queen Victory hospital, London at once. Bobby’s costal damaged his lung. The doctors astonished of his not sudden death. The episode of Ted’s talking to himself, his facing with his own honest in the waiting room is much more impressive: «He received out of nowhere the idea that if he went to phone Frances, his son would die. But not phoning her, by not even thinking about her, by willing her to stop existing in his life, he could increase Bobby’s chances, hold off his death» [9, 19].

On one hand sin, on other hand responsibility. Even there were times when he thought to be punished by God. In the midnight the doctor’s forecast came true, Bobby closed his eyes to this life forever. The bitter memories of loss, morally breakings lies in the human’s under conscience. It may overpower the person unexpectedly through certain associations time by time. Frances’s anxiety shows itself in the interior dialogue: «He would come back to Hanratty but he wouldn’t come back to her. Because he was with her when it happened he would hate her, at least, he would hate the thought of her, because it always made him think of the accident» [9, 21].

Qreta’s mother, father, sisters and relatives coming to the Bobby’s funeral took the strained family relation to end. Qreta’s elder sister gets aware of love affair between Ted and Frances and demands the school director and bishop to take urgent measures. But Ted states of his being oppressed everybody’s meddling his family’s inner business and of planning to divorce Qreta and to marry with Frances. Ted realizes the truth of life’s frailty with his son Bobby’s death. Sometimes people tries to move this fact away from themselves and the natives’ death makes him face with this fact. As if Ted realizes his having chance to live once and but not twice. He finds the courage in himself to appreciate this life in the frame of his dreams and wishes.

In the end of the story we learn of Frances’s marriage with Ted and their settling in Ottawa together with their two daughters. That car accident changed her life in the quite different direction. Frances was thinking about the case if the car accident didn’t happen: «If that accident didn’t happen, Frances would never live in Ottowa now, she wouldn’t have her two children; she wouldn’t have her life not the same life. Bobby would be about forty years old, perhaps he would be an engineer.... Ted would have a good job, a wife and childeren. Frances might still be here, in Hanratty, teaching music; or she might be elsewhere» [9, 24].

So Alice Munro who used both obvious and secret psychologisms in her stories managed to create psychological potrait of the characters’ inner world and impress the reader deeply.

The obvious and secret psychologisms in alice munro’s prose



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  9. of Jupiter.html
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2017
City: Almaty
Category: Philology