After this impossible opening, this novella-length story proceeds normally. Their life soon gets thrown into chaos. Economic times are difficult, but everyone tries to keep up good appearances.
Taken from her Dance of the Happy Shades collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Munro may be exploring the theme of change.
Something that is noticeable by the continued exclusion of Mrs Fullerton by those who have just moved into Garden Place and who wish to have her property demolished.
By singling out Mrs Fullerton Munro may also be highlighting the differences between not only new and old or future versus past but also the differences that may exist between generations. Out of all the characters in the story Mrs Fullerton is the only one who is described as being old.
Where once people may have appreciated their neighbours or have had some genuine concern for them each of the residents in Garden Place again with the exception of Mary appears to be more concerned with the value of their property. It is also possible that Munro is suggesting that with change or modernity comes the inevitable isolation of an individual who may or may not follow the lead of those around them.
Which appears to be the case for Mrs Fullerton who has no intention of changing the appearance of her property just in order to suit the wishes of her neighbours. The theme of conflict is self-evident in the story.
By also being the only person who does not wish to sign the petition Mary in many ways is highlighting her ability to think for herself or to remain independent of others. Which is how Mrs Fullerton herself also appears to live her life without concern or worry as to what those around her may think of her.
There is also some symbolism in the story that may be important. By telling the reader that the eggs are cheaper in the supermarket compared to the prices that Mrs Fullerton charges it is possible that Munro is symbolically highlighting the inevitability of modernity and the decline of self-sufficiency or independence.
It may also be a case that by telling the reader that Mrs Fullerton intends to sell some cherries from her house Munro is highlighting again how independent or self-sufficient Mrs Fullerton actually is unlike those who live around her.
By calling the subdivision Garden Place Munro may also be introducing irony into the story as a garden would usually be associated with plants, flowers, trees or maybe some bushes.
However it is clear to the reader that rather than looking like a garden, Garden Place has the feel and look of a building site with very little greenery. As previously mentioned out of all the characters in the story Mrs Fullerton is the only one who is considered old and who has already reared her children.
By introducing the party into the story Munro may be highlighting the arrival of the next generation. The ending of the story is also interesting as Munro appears to be exploring the theme of acceptance.
Though Mary refuses to sign the petition there is a sense that she accepts that what her neighbours are planning is going to happen with or without her agreement.
It may also be important that the reader is aware that Mary is unable to express herself as she would like to. Which suggests that the only truly independent person in Garden Place is the same individual Mrs Fullerton that everybody else wants to get rid of.
Cite Post McManus, Dermot. The Sitting Bee, 17 Oct.“The Shining Houses” was one of Alice Munro’s very first stories, written before she had what may be considered a break through when she wrote “The Peace of Utrecht” (after which, many of her stories, including “Walker Brothers Cowboy” (my thoughts here), dug into more autobiographical.
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Page 1 The Shining Houses by Alice Munro "She could try all night and never find any words to stand up to their words, which came at her now invincibly from all sides.
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