12 Critical Introduction

All walks of Life: A critical edition

Still Life wine
“Still Life wine” by rjenkins is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The short story collection titled “Dear Life” was written by Alice Munro and published in 2012. Our small group of four each took a unique lens to analyze the chapter “A Childhood Visitation.” The lens that were used include New Historicism, Reader Response, Psychological, and Queer Theory. While different lenses were used, each critical essay delves into the motifs, concepts, and structures employed within Munro’s short story.

New Historicism

In the New Historicism approach to “Dear Life” by Alice Munro, the influence of perception on human understanding is exposed. This essay seeks to explore the social limitations and perceptual nuances that are found in the lives of the characters, especially Munro’s and her mother’s. Examining the text reveals the personal levels with which Munro takes her writing to, and unfolds the many layers of hers and her mother’s character. The investigation of these layers include the following examples: the differentiating and fluctuating perception of Diane and her grandmother; the impulses, limitations, and disappointments that come human desire; and how the influence of perception can be changed with the intake of new knowledge. In this essay, one of the main focuses revolves around the story of Mrs. Netterfield: Munro’s mother’s perception and story telling, and how Munro intakes this information and forms her own opinion of what her perception is of Mrs. Netterfield when later presented with surprising information.

Reader Response

The student essay “The Remembering of One’s Youth” aims to analyze Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” by delving into Munro’s storytelling techniques, exploring her ability to evoke empathy and connection through her recounting of seemingly mundane events. The essay highlights key themes such as the fragility of human life, the unreliability of memory, and the enduring impact of key experiences. It also examines Munro’s narrative style, acknowledging both its immersive qualities and occasional weaknesses, while ultimately praising Munro’s talent in capturing the complexities of human emotions and the lasting power of memory. Through Munro’s storytelling, the essay emphasizes the value of reflecting on one’s own life experiences and memories.

Psychological

The essay “A Psychological Lens of Dear Life” takes a closer look at how the short story “Dear Life” by Alice Munro displays Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development and how these principles develop throughout one’s childhood into adulthood. These stages of moral development are built upon in “Dear Life” by the experiences the speaker goes through, along with the different people she meets and lessons she learns. The speaker’s perception of the past is changed from when she was a kid to reflecting on the events as an adult. This essay aims to focus on how Munro’s environment shapes her mindset and of those around her, and how the stages of moral development affect the outlook she has upon life and its events.

queer theory

The student essay “Nonlinear Memoirs” aims to dissect Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” through the lens of Queer Theory, examining how the non-linear narrative structure, character portrayals, and themes challenge and transcend heteronormative ideals. By exploring memory, growth, and family dynamics within Munro’s memoir, this essay seeks to highlight the contrast between typical heterosexual experiences and alternative, non-binary narratives. Ultimately, it strives to showcase how Munro’s unique storytelling challenges conventional autobiographical approaches, offering a nuanced exploration of life narratives beyond societal confines and emphasizing the diverse pathways life can take.

Through different lenses, we were able to examine “Dear Life” from multiple angles. Even though each essay has different conclusions and interpretations, it is clear that Munro’s short story collection intricately navigates memory, childhood, and societal expectations to display just a fraction of life’s beauty, mundaneness and all. Each essay aims to enrich readers understanding of “A Childhood Visitation” while emphasizing the story’s innate appeal and broad relevance, regardless of the analytical approach.

 

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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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