Every year, writers from all over the world receive different awards that acknowledge their talent. Regardless of the fact that there are multiple criteria that help evaluate the expediency of an author’s nomination and winning, every person has an opportunity to take his own position concerning these facts. However, in order to be able to decide for himself whether a writer genuinely deserves a prize, it is essential to examine his or her way to success, the peculiarities of works, and experts’ reactions to them. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to review Alice Munro and make a conclusion about the viability of her talent’s affirmation by the award.
Alice Munro is a prominent Canadian short-story writer known as the first woman from this country who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was born as Alice Ann Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario, on July 10, 1931 – in the present day, she is 90 years old (“Alice Munro,” n.d.). Alice Munro studied English and journalism at the University of Western Ontario but left it after only two years to marry James Munro, her first husband. Together they moved to Victoria, Vancouver, British Columbia, and opened a bookstore there (“Alice Munro,” n.d.). They welcomed four daughters – Sheila, Catherine, Jenny, and Andrea, however, Catherine died on the same day she was born due to lacking functioning kidneys (Thacker, 2013). Affected by positive and negative life events, Alice started to write short stories due to a lack of time for longer works and publish them in various magazines.
Her growing popularity brought tension to her marriage which was breaking down. As a result, Alice and James divorced in 1972, and later, she married Gerald Fremlin, a physical geographer, and moved to Huron County, Clinton (Thacker, 2013). Gerald Fremlin died in 2013, and his death along with Munro’s age led to the completion of her writing career (Thacker, 2013). She remained one of the most rewarded and acknowledged Canadian authors of all time.
Supported by James Munro, Alice started to write short stories that were initially bought by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for broadcasting and published in Canadian periodicals. However, the first collection of short stories when it had reached a book-length size was called Dance of the Happy Shades and published in 1968; its popularity in Canada brought Munro’s first Governor General’s Award for fiction (“Alice Munro,” n.d.). In 1971, Alice published her second book, Lives of Girls and Women, which made her more recognizable among literary people within the framework of English Canada’s increasing cultural nationalism (Thacker, 2013). This tendency helped talented authors be valued and celebrated like never before.
After the divorce, Munro was traveling before she settled in Ontario. Her third book, Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, was published in 1974, followed by “Home,” a memoir published in the same year and dedicated to the return to Canada (Thacker, 2013). Her next books, Who Do You Think You Are? and The Progress of Love, were released in 1978 and 1986, respectively (Thacker, 2013). In the 1980s, Munro started to cooperate with American publishers introducing her works to this country’s readers. Other famous collections of her short stories include The Moons of Jupiter (1982), Friend of My Youth (1990), Open Secrets (1994), The Love of a Good Woman (1998), Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001), Runaway (2004), The View from Castle Rock (2006), Too Much Happiness (2009), and Dear Life (2012) (Thomas Storey, 2016). Munro’s works won multiple rewards, including the Man Booker International Prize and the Nobel Prize.
Dance of the Happy Shades, Munro’s first boom is dedicated to life in Canadian rural settings, and the majority of plots for stories were borrowed from the author’s own childhood. The stories presented a distinct gender differentiation within families with work-oriented, inexpressive, and rational fathers and opinionated, fussy, and overly chatty mothers (Liebson. 2019). At the same time, Munro shows her preference for fathers whose characters are described as more appealing to their daughters. In turn, enforcing the standards of domesticity, women created a pressure of the necessity to conform to multiple rules and norms. Thus, “from story to story, one feels a sustained longing for independence” from social and personal injustice (Liebson. 2019, para. 5). In this book’s stories, women suffer from the inability to express themselves and raise their voices ruled by traditions, rigid standards, and dogmas. For example, in “Boys and Girls,” a mother “is the house, there is no separation possible” (Liebson. 2019, para. 7). Therefore, even without the clear expression of her position, Alice Munro may be regarded as a feminist writer providing an insight into women’s fears, wishes, needs, demands, and struggles.
Although Munro’s characters may be regarded as ordinary people who exist in ordinary circumstances, she does not undermine the significance and the complexity of their ambiguities and intentions. At the same time, in her stories, characters act according to a moment precisely described to serve the genre’s purpose (Pehlivan, n.d.). That is why, Alice Munro underlines that if she is a feminist, she is a “feminist only out of circumstance” (Pehlivan, n.d., para. 4). She focuses on women understanding their situations without judging from the position of high-sounding morality. In other words, in her works, she allowed people to make decisions and follow them on the basis of their life conditions – and this makes her stories so familiar and understandable for readers. At the same time, Munro expresses her admiration for strong people, particularly women, who are strong and talented enough to overcome obstacles. For example, in Too Much Happiness, she describes the life of Sophia Kovalevsky who was a mathematician and a novelist at the same time (Pehlivan, n.d.). For the author, she was a pure talent who dominated two different worlds being a woman whose intellectual abilities were traditionally regarded as inferior in comparison to men’s ones.
Alice Munro became the first Canadian female writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She received it in 2013 for her contribution to the development of the short story genre, distinctive storytelling technique, and addressing people helping understand their hearts and souls (“Award ceremony speech,” 2013). According to the Nobel committee, Munro’s stories “often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning” (Haq, 2013, para. 1). Being loved by readers from all over the world, Alice nevertheless brought attention to Canadian culture and writers and elevated the significance of a short story for world literature.
Alice Munro addressed ordinary people showing how deep their inner world can be. According to the Nobel committee, “her intelligence, compassion and astonishing power of perception enable her to give their lives a remarkable dignity – indeed redemption – since she shows how much of the extraordinary can fit into that jam-packed emptiness called The Ordinary” (“Award ceremony speech,” 2013, para. 2). Without external drama and pain expressed, Munro revealed people’s inner suffering frequently connected with social and gender inequities. With her distinctive writing technique, she presented feelings and emotions familiar to every person in a highly precise and clear manner. Thus, the committee stated: “if you read a lot of Alice Munro’s works carefully, sooner or later, in one of her short stories, you will come face to face with yourself” (“Award ceremony speech,” 2013, para. 5). While scientists received awards for the solutions to the universe’s enigmas, Munro got the Nobel Prize for the solution to the mysteries of human hearts.
Conclusion and Evaluation
On the basis of this review, I may conclude that Alice Munro may be regarded as an outstanding writer who contributed to the development of a short story addressing people’s feelings and emotions that frequently remained unnoticed. Although I did not have an opportunity to read any of her books, I will definitely do this in the future as I want to get acquainted with works that were appraised at the highest level. At the same time, I believe that Alice Munro deserves the Nobel Prize and other awards as she raises the awareness of ordinary people’s problems. While in her stories, voices were ignored, with the power of literature, they become louder.
Alice Munro. (n.d.). Biography. Web.
Award ceremony speech. (2013). The Nobel Prize. Web.
Haq, H. (2013). 5 reasons Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Christian Science Monitor. Web.
Liebson, J. (2019). Revisiting the deep sense of place in Alice Munro’s debut, 50 years later. The Atlantic. Web.
Pehlivan, M. (n.d.). Why you should read Alice Munro. Bosphorus Review of Books. Web.
Thacker, R. (2013). Alice Munro: Biographical. The Nobel Prize. Web.
Thomas Storey. (2016). A Nobel vision: The works of Alice Munro. Culture Trip. Web.