Spelling and Differently: Kinship, Deception and Challenges
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Alice Munro's Spelling and Differently: Kinship, Deception and Challenges
The two short stories Spelling and Differently, written by Alice Munro, deal with female relationships. These relationships paint a vivid picture of the kinship, deception, challenges, and associations that affect friends and family as they journey through life.
"Spelling" is about the relationship of two women, Rose and Flo. Although from the outset the relationship between Rose and Flo is not clear, near the end the reader has no doubt they are mother and daughter. Munro illustrates the awkward relationship between a parent and a child and the difficult problems that face children as their parents age. After visiting the county home in an attempt to find a place for Flo to live, "Rose spoke of the view and the pleasant rooms. Flo looked angry; her face darkened and she stuck out her lip. Rose handed her a mobile she had bought for 50 cents in the County Home crafts centre.... Stick it up your arse, said Flo" (Oates 151). The reader sees no affection between the two. In fact, the tone of the story illustrates a lack of acceptance and even disappointment by Flo and shows that there has always been a distance between the two.
The title is derived from a patient Rose met at the nursing home whose only communication was spelling words. After meeting this patient, Rose dreamed that Flo was in a cage and spelling words like the old patient she met in the nursing home. Rose tells Flo about her visit to the nursing home and is obviously trying to influence Flo into going to the home. Flo is suffering from some sort of dementia, perhaps Alzheimer's. In this story the author doesn't tell the characters ages, Rose's occupation, and other information necessary to develop a clear picture. Instead, Munro makes the reader use more of ones imagination in developing the story. Although Munro is not explicit, the story is about an unhappy relationship between a daughter and mother.
In the story the narrator flashes back to a time in Rose's career when she was in a play with her breast exposed. Flo showed her displeasure by writing her a letter that said "shame" and adding that if her father was not already dead, he would wish that he was (Oates 154). Yet, the reader feels that Rose is still trying to earn her mother's respect and love.