Who does Rose think she is?

Either the question has been asked of her, or she has asked it of herself, throughout her life.

It’s fitting that the final story give voice to that.

It’s also fitting that the reader feels the question has been half-answered in the final paragraph of the collection. “Half-answered” because there is no definite response.

“There were some things Rose and her brother Brian could safely talk about…”

So begins this story, with the obvious implication that there are some things they cannot talk about.

And who Rose thinks she is? That’s on the list of things that cannot be safely discussed.

Whenever someone in Hanratty tells Rose that they have seen her on television, Rose quells the urge to apologize. Who does she think she is, after all?

“She remembered her days as a television interviewer, her beguiling confidence and charm; here as nowhere else they must understand how that was a sham.”

But on this occasion, the questioner is someone who has come to live in Hanratty. She was from Sarnia, and she has never adjusted to town-life, after fifteen years.

“I still find it hard to get used to. Frankly I do. After the city.”

The city. When Who Do You Think You Are? was published, Sarnia had a population of over 50,000. And Rose is about to return to Toronto, which had a population of over 2 million.

(Today, the populations are 79,000 and over 6 million, respectively.)

Who does Rose think she is, living a life in Toronto, rather than Hanratty? If Sarnia would have been so demonstrably different?

Indeed, Hanratty does occupy a significant portion of who Rose thinks she is. Her memories of Milton Homer and Ralph Gillespie reveal this to be true.

Milton and Ralph seem to represent contrasting elements of Hanratty life, but each is vitally important in terms of what Rose carries with her of this town.

Well, Rose thinks of it as a ‘town’, but Phoebe refers to Hanratty as a ‘village’; this surprises Rose, but population-wise, it seems this would have been the more appropriate term for the centre when Rose was a girl.

Hanratty has changed a lot in the intervening years. There are hardly any parades anymore. The power wielded by the Methodists has been eroded. It no longer contains only a single family who has travelled to China.

But whether Rose has changed, that much or more? That remains for the reader to decide: just who do you think she is? And is this a question which is unique to her experience, or one which every reader has posed themselves?

Note: This is part of a series of posts on Alice Munro’s stories, beginning with with Dance of the Happy ShadesLives of Girls and Women, and Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell YouI aim to read through her work to date. She is one of my MRE authors.

This story is the last in this collection. Care to join in with the next, The Moons of Jupiter? The first story will appear next Thursday, so that “Labour Day Dinner” will fall on the Thursday before Labour Day weekend. Please feel free to join in, for the series, or for a single story.

In summary, links to the other stories in this collection follow:
Royal Beatings  
Half a Grapefruit 
Wild Swans 
The Beggar Maid 
Simon’s Luck