It’s no coincidence that a story titled for ‘luck’ follows one titled for ‘providence’ in this collection of stories by Alice Munro.
Indeed, folks in Hanratty could well have a saying, that one man’s luck is another man’s providence. Or vice versa.
“That’s a pretty small thing to get into a state of humiliation about.”
“So I see. It doesn’t take much with me.”
Simon’s observation of Rose is more true than he realizes, but the reader understands immediately that this is a pattern in Rose’s life.
And the reader also recognizes that that “pretty small thing” is actually not so small, not when viewed in the context of Rose having grown up with the sense of being on the margins, with the desperate desire to be included.
“She wanted to plead with them, so they would forgive her and love her and take her on their side. It was their side she wanted to be on, not the side of the people in the living room who had taken up her cause.”
Nonetheless, what the reader does not recognize, even in this moment of apparent self-revelation and honesty, is that this pattern is playing out once more.
The story opens, however, by fixing Rose in a new time and place. She is teaching drama and acting part-time in Eastern Ontario, and she has small lines around her eyes in both directions.
“It is very hard to look in the mirror when there is another, and particularly a younger, woman in the room.”
But, even so, Rose leaves with a man from the party, with Simon. In some ways, how she views him throughout that weekend demonstrates that she has grown over the years, with her relationships with Patrick and Tom (and, the reader understands, other Tom-like figures) bringing a new understanding.
There are moments of self-awareness that are wise and reflective. For instance: “So much female touching is asking…women’s tenderness is greedy, their sensuality is dishonest.” This fits with what the reader knows of Rose’s past relationships with men, and the observation suggests that Rose has spent some time considering her past choices.
But, simultaneously, although Rose might now recognize certain destructive patterns, she does not necessarily alter her decision-making.
“She had turned Simon into the peg on which her hopes were hung and she could never manage now to turn him back into himself.”
Poor Simon. And, yet, Simon has his own kind of luck. So the reader is not entirely saddened for him.
And, then, that changes, both the reader’s understanding and Simon’s luck.
This is not the kind of story that Rose stars in when she does land a TV role.
“People watching trusted that they would be protected from predictable disasters, also from those shifts of emphasis that throw the story line open to question, the disarrangements which demand new judgments and solutions, and throw the windows open on inappropriate unforgettable scenery.”
If there is a spectrum of story-telling, in which what those people were watching exists at one end, Alice Munro’s stories would hold down the other end of the line.
There is no protection. There are shifts of emphasis that raise all sorts of questions. Judgments and solutions are always shifting. And there are countless unforgettable scenes.
Rose experiences this at the end of “Simon’s Luck”; the reader of Who Do You Think You Are? experiences it throughout the collection.
Have you read this story? Are you planing to read something by Alice Munro?
Note: This is part of a series of posts on Alice Munro’s story collection Who Do You Think You Are?, which will continue on subsequent Thursdays. Please feel free to join in, for the series, or for a single story. My Alice Munro reading project began with Dance of the Happy Shades, followed by Lives of Girls and Women, and Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, and I aim to read through her work to date. She is one of my MRE authors.
Next week’s story is “Spelling”. Care to join in?