Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Casey Charles

Commitee Members

Christopher J. Knight, Debra Magpie Earling


memory, narrative structure, short story


University of Montana


The three connected stories, “Chance,” “Soon” and “Silence” in Alice Munro’s collection, Runaway, form the core of the collection, thematically and structurally. Munro tells the story of Juliet and her feelings of regret over the loss of her parents, her husband Eric, her friend Christa, and, most of all, her daughter Penelope. By juxtaposing moments in the present and the near and distant past, and using repetition and echoes, Munro leads us through Juliet’s life, showing us why she is caught up in her grief. Munro connects the past to the present by leaping through time, fragmenting the story, and using a shifting third-person narrator. Because past and present are fragmented throughout the stories, often without clear markers to show which is which, we understand how Juliet’s been affected by the choices she and Eric and Penelope (and her parents and Christa) have made, and we sympathize more deeply with her because we understand her past and how it’s affected her. Because of this sense of “timelessness” (a term Blodgett used to characterize Munro’s earlier work) that the collapsed time creates, we want to unpuzzle the story and understand where Juliet is now. The three stories function as a sort of elegy (a word Karen E. Smythe used to define Munro’s older stories), and by the end of Silence, Juliet has accepted her past and returned to her Greek studies, finding some sense of peace. I’ve followed the narrative leaps in time and shifts in third-person through “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence” in order to understand how Munro’s craft works – why her stories have become more fragmented, and how her interest in the relationship between past and present comes to bear on Juliet’s life and understanding of self. In doing so, I apply postmodern theory, including the work of Andreas Huyssen and Avery Gordon, to Munro’s stories. I’ve also incorporated studies of writing craft by Charles Baxter, Debra Spark and Janet Burroway, and relied on the critical work of Louise MacKendrick, Karen E. Smythe, E.D. Blodgett, Ildiko de Papp Carrington, Leslie Awano, and other Munro scholars.

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© Copyright 2008 Rachel May