The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

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The Progress of Love by Alice Munro
Plot: Woman gets call at work from her father, telling her that her mother is dead. Father never got used to living alone and went into retirement home. Mother is described as very religious, Anglican, who had been saved at the age of 14. Father was also religious and had waited for the mother since he first met her. They did not have sex until marriage and the father was mildly dissapointed that the mother did not have money. Description of the house follows, very high ceilings, old mansion it seems, with chimney stains, it has been let go. Jumps in time to narrators ex-husband making fun of narrator fantasizing about stains. Next paragraph is the father in a retirement home, always referring to things: ‘The lord never intended.’, shows how old people have disdain for new things, the next generation appears to be more and more sacreligious. Shows streak of meanness when ‘spits’ out a reference to constant praying, narrator claims he does not know who he is talking to, but appears to be the very pious mother. Following paragraph jumps back in time to when narrator was a child, she asks her mother constant questions about her white hair and what color it was, mother says she was glad when it wasn’t brown like her fathers anymore, shows high distaste towards her father, the narrators grandfather.

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Mother claims hate is sin, that it spreads throughout your body like black ink in water. Next paragraph jumps to older narrator, discussing her name, Euphemia, how they called her Phemie at home, but when she started to work she called herself Fame (hated her real name), dialogue between her and a bar guest, which is where she worked, at a bar in a hotel. Shows the type of place and type of people she converses with on a regular basis. After that the next paragraph jumps back to 1947 when Euphemia was 12 (so she was born in 1935), she was helping her mother paper the downstairs bedroom because her mother sister Beryl was coming to visit. Her mother didn’t really know Beryl, her father had remarried after their mother died and moved to Minneapolis and then Seatlle with his new wife, Euphemias mother stayed behind. Wallpaper was with corn and at reduced price and not enough, tells you what their socio-economic level was at, not high and sort of scraping things together, like the wallpaper. Mother sings song her mother sang for her and Beryl. Narrator describes she is excited that Beryl is coming and that she just did her examinations in town. According to her family she would become a housewife, working farm woman anyway. Mother says God doesn’t care anway. Next paragraph describes the mother of the narrator, she is given a name, Marietta. Narrator thinks Mariette is separate from her mother. Marietta lived in double house divided by a trellis, indication of socio-economic status. Neighbours German, Sutcliffes, the woman made strudl that looked like skin, thought Marietta. Marietta wakes up one day and finds her mother in the barn appearing to want to hang herself. Marietta is instructed by her mother to get het father, she does, she runs all though town, only to return, without her father and to find that her mother is in the kitchen drinking tea with Mrs. Sutcliffe. Narrator says her mothers heart was broken, it had been touched by poison. Next paragraph jumps to Beryls arrival with Mr. Florence in his royal-blue chrysler with pearly-grey upholstery, he was very particular abou the name of the color. Beryl was very different from anyone the narrator had met before, very well look after, interested in everything on the farm, wanted to be shown around, smoked. Referred to teat of cow, after narrator milked it, as: ‘Think if it was you.’, hereby making the narrator aware of the consciousness of the animal, making the narrator to never be able to hold a ‘warm, warty teat in such a firm and casual way again.’ The following paragraph discusses Beryl’s ritual before going to sleep, removing all make-up, something the narrator had never seen in such abundance. The way in which Beryl does her hair, the narrator switches point of view from child to grown-up, referring to it as something she had learned from. The next paragraph describes a day when Beryl and Mr. Florence take everyone for a drive, except the boys, and they go to a restaurant, something the narrators parents and herself are completely unaccustomed to. She had never seen the country like that before, even thought it was so close. People that boys are staying at are referred to as Catholics, which back then was an important aspect of peoples life. At restaurant father makes jokes to hide his discomfort, Beryl tells her side of the story regarding the narrators grandmothers attempt to kill herself.
After this, the next paragraph talks about Beryls side of the story coming to light, and the next time the narrator would enter the restaurant in the previous paragraph. It was changed into the Lions club, where her then-husband was a member of, while subsequently turning into a stripclub.
The next paragraph discusses the farmhouse the narrator grew up in. It was sold to a man in Toronto who rented it to a commune (hippies). This is followed by a jump in time, when the narrator is looking in it much later, when the hippies left and the house is for sale again. She looks at it with her friend Bob Marks, and sees some old wallpaper and hippie paintings. Tells him about the time when her mother burnt 3000 dollars, only person she would tell, is reminded by this because the stove which was used is still present. Shows distaste for hippies.
Next paragraph jumps back in time, when dinner party is on way back home, Beryl is told that her sister burnt the 3000 dollars. Is outraged.
Final paragraph discusses whether or not narrator believes that she actually did see her father there when her mother burnt the money, which was earlier denied by her mother. Bob Marks also mentioned, narrator makes him believe that she got upset over comment earlier because he referred to the room that was previously her bedroom.

Characters:
Euphemia Narrator.
Father Strong but silent type, stand by his wife even when she wants to burn money that could change their life drastically. Somewhat ashamed of their humble home when Beryl comes by, hides it with jokes. Hard working farmer. May have cheated on his wife.
Mother (Marietta) Determined, hardened and hard working.
Beryl Very outgoing and a large personality. She is an urbanite, while narrators family are farmers. She is independent, owns a business and invested in real estate, has done fairly well for herself as she can afford luxuries such as make-up, satin pyjamas etc. She is very outgoing and not afraid to be angry, discusses ‘private matters’ openly, unembarassed.
Sutcliffes German couple who lived in the other half of the house Marietta and her family lived in. Supposedly ‘saved’ Marietta’s mother from killing herself. Made strudl that looked like skin.
Mr. Florence Unclear whether he and Beryl are involved as he is described as a friend, but likely. Man of one liners, very particular about his posessions, wealthy. Twitchy, tall and thin, mousey.
Brothers Not discussed.
Dan Casey Ex-husband. Republican, member of the Lions club, where men talked about ways to boost local commerce, sort of republican gentlemens club.
Bob Marks A friend of the narrator who accompanies her to her old house. Makes some scathing remarks about the hippies.
Context
This short story was published in 1985 and was
Passage
“The farm was sold for five thousand dollars in 1965. A man from Toronto bought it , for a hobby farm or just an investment. After of a coupl of years, he rented it to a commune…They had set up in its place these beliefs and customs of their own, which I hoped would fail them.”
Theme
Ever changing time, distorting the past.
The narrator feels that the commune is a mockery of the way her parents lived in that house, a life of hardship and struggle. They don’t understand what happened there, they are just living their life in their time.
Constant change in time, the narrator describes her perceptions when she was young, living with her parents, the reader catches a glimpse of when she was married, when she is working in the same village as she grew up etc. She goes through time in this story, as do her parents, who are described as young, middle aged and old, especially her mother. Also the difference in age, which we catch these glimpses of is discussed, of example, while Marietta experiences the suicide of her mother in a very dramatic way, her sister sees it as a joke, being the carefree little girl she was at the time, while the older Mrs. Sutcliffe experiences it as a mild disturbance, persuading the mother of Marietta to get down. These differences in experiencing occurences is all due to age and they stay in your mind like that for the rest of your life. For example Beryl still views the suicide as a joke, while Marietta is haunted by it.
This emotional discussion of time also applies to for example buildings, the Woodward Inn, which becomes the Lions Club and then becomes a stripclub, this all indicates that memories are reliant completely on time, nothing else.
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