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The Red Dress by Alice Munro

Ten important quotations and an explanation of their significance from Alice Munro's short story, the Red Dress.
by Jesse Lim on 25 March 2011

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Transcript of The Red Dress by Alice Munro

The Red Dress by Alice Munro Main Themes: 1. The pressure, expectations, and necessary social conformities of growing up and being a teenager. 2. The distance that grows between parents and youth as they get older. 3. The constant struggle to find balance between self-interest and social conformity throughout life. She worked at an old treadle machine pushed up against the window to get the light, and also to let her look out, past the stubble fields and bare vegetable garden, to see who went by on the road. There was seldom anybody to see.
Pg.8
The Mother - Sets a lonely mood for the mother; a lonely setting for the town
- Might suggest that the mother is looking for company/waiting for something that isn’t going to come
- This quote can reaffirm the absence of a father that is so noticeable in the story Unlike [my aunt and grandmother] she started off with an inspiration, a brave and dazzling idea; from that moment on, her pleasure ran downhill.
Pg. 8
- Suggests that it is virtually impossible for the mother to hold any interest in hobbies or pastimes without eventually casting them aside (the struggle she has with finding something to occupy herself is an indication that she may be distracted or bothered by something)
- The comparison with the aunt and grandmother indicates that the mother is unlike how the “ordinary” is supposed to be, just like how her daughter feels [My mother] enraged me, talking like this to Lonnie, as if Lonnie were grown up and I were still a child.
Pg. 9
- Shows that the mother is searching for companionship in unlikely places/anywhere she can find it
- Can also be an indication that the mother is trying to preserve her mother-daughter relationship with the narrator instead of growing more distant as she grows up My mother seemed unable to leave us. I wished she would.
Pg. 12
- Shows again that the mother is looking for company
- Shows the irratibility of the narrator by her mother This was a traditional farewell of Lonnie’s and mine; it sounded foolish and desolate coming from her, and I was so angry with her for using it that I did not reply.
Pg. 13
- Is an attempt by the mother to establish a connection with her "new", growing-up daughter
- The mother tries to “fit in” or be “ordinary”, but is awkward doing it - a direct comparison to the narrator and her social tendencies The Narrator (daughter) Above the couch, on the wallpaper, were old games of Xs and Os , old drawings and scribblings my brother and I had done when we were sick with bronchitis. I looked at them and longed to be back behind the boundaries of childhood.
Pg. 12 -Creates a context for the setting
-The last line develops the idea that the narrator is terrified of growing up, and is struggling with an internal conflict between remaining safe “behind the boundaries of childhood” and venturing into the stressful and demanding environment of growing up a teenager There was something the matter with me, something that could not be put right like bad breath or overlooked like pimples, and everybody knew it, and I knew it; I had known it all along.
Pg. 15
- Highlights the pressures felt by growing teenagers, and contrasts the simpler, trivial issues against the more serious, “fitting in” aspects of high school that plague so many youth
- Shows the narrator’s intense insecurity and lack of confidence in herself Here was someone who had suffered the same defeat as I had – I saw that – but she was full of energy and self-respect.
Pg. 17
- Introduces to the narrator a “last resort” fall-back as an answer to her social troubles (living with a different mindset and refusing to conform)
- Shows the narrator a glimmer of hope: although she has suffered a defeat, it was possible to live life with energy and self-respect Then he turned back to town, never knowing he had been my rescuer, that he had brought me from Mary Fortune’s territory into the ordinary world.
Pg. 19
- Shows how the narrator had been pulled from her momentary lapse into a troubled, “outcast” mindset
- The mundane/nonchalant nature of Raymond Bolting versus the life-changing experience that the narrator saw the night as shows how youth suffer and succeed on a multitude of levels when climbing the teenage social hierarchy The Wrap Up But when I saw the waiting kitchen, and my mother in her faded, fuzzy Paisley kimono, with her sleepy but doggedly expectant face, I understood what a mysterious and oppressive obligation I had, to be happy, and how I had almost failed it, and would be likely to fail it, every time, and she would not know.
Pg. 19
Lonnie wore the composed, polite, appreciative expression that was her disguise in the presence of grownups. She laughed at them and was a ferocious mimic, and they never knew.
Pg. 9
- Develops the story’s theme of growing up, or “young vs. old” by showing a typical, teenage thing to do
- Shows that the youth around the narrator’s age are right in the transitional period of growing mature: Lonnie wishes to save face/portray maturity in the presence of adults, but still retains traits that were likely present in her childhood
Aman M. and Jesse L. 2011
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