Bachelor of Arts
Alice Munro, Girls, Women
Munro's fiction contains these two elements at odds, in tension with one another, but they are, for her characters, part of the same process of reckoning with the world. Munro's protagonists, once inside the deep cave, find the familiar linoleum--and the cave itself becomes more mysterious because of this paradoxical discovery. Meanwhile, Munro herself seems to go through a similar process in the act of writing. Her likening of art to a pattern of approach and recognition is applicable to her work, and perhaps, to the work of many writers. Writers go into secret places, hoping to come out with something that can be recognized by, and shared with, others. Within Munro's work, a more specific pattern of approach and recognition occurs. Her characters approach the unknown, the other, hoping to find it comprehensible, make it recognizable, in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. The word "approach" suggests both an active, physical movement towards something outside the self and the mental equivalent of that kind of movement (e.g. I'm trying to "approach "Alice Munro's work.) It also suggests beginnings, and a basically linear movement, a movement towards something. "Recognition" implies a re-thinking; the outcome of the approach is that the "other" is no longer completely separate from the self; it can be fit into a scheme of thought and is given familiar qualities. In Munro's work, of course, the self-aware protagonist realizes that the recognition is something limited, not a complete understanding; in fact, it may be something created by the self as a way of comfort, a hedge against what is essentially unknowable.
Sweeney, Catherine Laura, ""As If She Had No Secrets": Approach, Recognition, and Coming of Age In Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women" (1990). Honors Papers. 583.