The Victimization of Women in Selected Short Stories by Alice Munro

The Victimization of Women in Selected Short Stories by Alice Munro


Alice Munro, born in 1931 in Wingham, Ontario as Alice Laidlaw, is a renowned and one of the most important short story writers not only in her homeland Canada but the entire English-speaking world. Her literature saw her become the first Canadian winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Most of Munro’s literature focus on addressing one of the most biting issues both in the old and modern society, which is the victimization of women. For several years, women have been degraded, undermined, and despised in society, with men being praised and treated as their superiors in almost every context or situation. Both in the traditional and modern society, the ever-existing patriarchy has seen women’s words silenced with the aim or objective of securing a position of superiority and privilege for men. Several theories have come up to support the idea and argument that women have no place in society other than performing household duties and act second fiddle to men in every situation. For example, the theory of sexuality and language by Jacques Lacan gives insight into how discourse is celebrated and considered a masculine privilege to which women are denied access to or not allowed to enjoy. In this theory, Lacan focuses on how young children are often detached from the mother and are subsequently attached to the father, with the belief that the father is superior and has a say over what is to take place in the family context. It is widely believed that the female child can never truly perform certain duties because she does not identify completely with the father or simply because she is not male. The idea that men are superior to women was further cemented by the emergence of feminist ideologies from second-wave feminism. The problems faced by women in Munro’s time were attributed to ideologies pushed forward by feminists such as Simon de Beauvoir and Elaine Showalter. Simon de Beauvoir’s primary feminist principle is that a person is not born a woman but rather becomes a woman. Beauvoir further states that no biological, economical, or psychological fate can determine the figure presented by a woman in society except for civilization that produces the female creature. Munro was affected by these feminist ideologists that emerged from second-wave feminism, and they prompted her to oppose the victimization of women through her selected short stories.

In most of her short stories, Munro revises the traditional negative view and perception as well as the victimization of women. In stories such as “Boys and Girls” and “Princess Ida,” it is clear that the female protagonists are on a quest, not to find their places within the patriarchal society or a masculine literary tradition, but to establish a feminine identity that transcends patriarchal logic and rejects the confinement imposed on the female voice by the conventional culture. Munro’s stories revolve around the lives of marginalized and victimized women in society. The rationale behind Munro’s writings about the victimization of women is that she seeks to counter the negative idea spread by feminists of the second-wave feminism era such as Simon de Beauvoir and Elaine Showalter. As mentioned earlier, Munro was irked and affected by the feminist ideologies that emerged from second-wave feminism, and this might have been the reason for her writing about the victimization of women.

The findings of this study offer myriads of contributions to modern literature, especially those discussing the victimization of women both in old and modern society. This study’s findings reveal the harsh treatment, prejudice, discrimination, despise, and brutality against women. The findings examine Munro’s view, perception, and response to the crisis of victimization of women the world over. Therefore, this research investigates or examines the victimization of women is selected short stories by Alice Munro.

This dissertation endeavors to answer or address the following questions: what is the consequence of the victimization of women witnessed in society today? How does Alice Munro view or respond to the victimization of women? Were Alice Munro’s writings about the victimization of women motivated by the feminist ideologies that emerged from second-wave feminism? Is Munro optimistic about the place and situation of women in future society?

This dissertation is organized into two sections or chapters: Chapter one address in detail the identity crisis in Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” story. In this story, Munro presents a young girl whose journey to womanhood is fraught with difficulties as she senses that society considers women socially inferior to men. At some point, while at a table with her family, the young girl is afraid that she might be victimized because of her action where she opened rather than close the gate allowing the father’s horse to escape. Through this story, Munro examines the identity crisis among female individuals and how harshly they are treated by society. Chapter two will examine the victimization of Women in Alice Munro’s “Princess Ida.” In this story, Munro presents a woman who goes against expectations and does a job perceived to be inappropriate and a “man’s job.” The woman, who is the narrator’s mother, sells encyclopedias and has to drive around in search for customers. Despite her commitment and struggles, she is victimized by society, especially by women perceived to be her closest friends.