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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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"The Progress of Love by Alice Munro." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Jan 2020
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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.
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.
This short story was published in 1985 and was
“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.”
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.