The title of this story suggests a journey, travel and a destination. But the story itself focuses on the precursors to such events: the preparations and anticipation.
Nonetheless, “The Ticket” is preoccupied with the concept of movement, shifting position, moving from one zone to another (or, not).
There are delineations, and characters are aware of the lines drawn, eager to maintain traditional territories.
This might be interpreted literally.
“People were sure to spot you if you were noticed in a part of town where you had no particular reason to be.”
Or metaphorically, in terms of society’s expectations and the limited possibilities existing, particularly for women, the roles they could naturally inhabit.
“Henrietta was not an unusual woman of her time but she was an unusual woman in that town.”
But the narrator herself is of an age where she is preparing to cross a line.
This is true geographically, as she readies herself for marriage in British Columbia, leaving her parents behind in their Ontario farmhouse.
But it is true in another sense as well, which she considers as she cleans the old house, polishes the worn and tends to the broken.
“Such efforts kept a line in place, between respectable striving and raggedy defeat. And I cared the more for this the closer I came to being a deserter.”
Even while she is viewing herself as a deserter, however, her understanding of the world (and what awaits her in it) is rooted in her experiences at home.
What she knows of and expects from married life is what she has viewed within the context of worn linoleum.
“I had three marriages to study, fairly close-up, in this early part of my life. My parents’ marriage—I suppose you might say that it was the most close-up, but in a way it was the most mysterious and remote, because of my childish difficulty in thinking of my parents as having any connection but the one they had through myself.”
Her perspective dictates the lines she draws between the members of the three married couples she has observed, and sometimes, as with her parents, she is incapable of standing outside those lines. Even though, in one instance (that of her grandparents’ marriage), she isn’t actually in the diagram.
Regardless, she has only viewed one married couple in which affection seemed to play a role. “My father commented to me, some time after Uncle Cyril’s death, that Uncle Cyril and Aunt Charlie had been truly fond of each other […] such a condition was rare.”
These lines, these ties, these binds: some are more intractable than others. “I meant to hang on to him and to my family as well. I thought that I would be bound up with them always, as long as I lived, and that he could not shame or argue me away from them.”
This question of lines that push and pull, talk of departures and entrances: this is at the heart of “The Ticket”.
Aunt Charlie is concerned that the young Alice might have drawn a line, envisioned her trajectory, purchased a ticket for a journey that will not suit her in the way she hopes/expects.
“Aunt Charlie’s eyes had gone pale with alarm at what she’d just said. And at what she still had to say, with more emphasis, though her lips were trembling. ‘It might not be just the right ticket for you.'”
Readers who are aware that Alice Munro’s first marriage did not endure will recognize that Aunt Charlie’s concerns had some validity.
But once one has purchased a ticket, it takes a remarkable fortitude to step out of the queue and retrace one’s steps.
Worn linoleum is familiar but pales next to a freshly waxed floor.
Note: This is part of a series of posts on Alice Munro’s stories in The View from Castle Rock as I read through her work-to-date. She is one of my MRE authors and this is the ninth story in this collection. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story. Next week, “Home”.
Note: There are spoilers in the comments below.