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“Friend of My Youth” by Alice Munro Essay

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Updated: Feb 6th, 2022

Revisiting the past through the lens of a side character is an unusual yet very powerful technique for telling a story that belongs to a different time period. In “Friend of My Youth,” Alice Munro takes the specified approach even further and introduces the story as experienced by the narrator’s mother. By portraying her mother through a series of reverse descriptions, the narrator depicts as she would like to remember her, namely, lively, strong, and opinionated, erasing the damage done to her mother by the disease.

The attempts at using negations as the means of defining the main characteristics of the narrator’s mother speak volumes of their relationships. For instance, the first descriptions that emerge in the text define the mother as “not exactly youthful” and “not entirely untouched by the paralyzing disease” (Munro 9). Namely, it becomes evident that the narrator strives to reconnect with her mother by creating a positive image of her. The narrator seeks to capture her mother in action, thus juxtaposing the image to the one that remained with her after her mother’s death. She portrays the mother as “rolling out piecrust” and “washing the dishes,” maintaining the impression of unceasing movement and activity (Munro 9). The specified description allows the readers to change the perception of the narrator to that one of a grief-stricken woman, and her mother as that one of a formerly active person crippled by disease.

The use of the reverse descriptions of the narrator’s mother in the second paragraph of the story helps the storyteller to keep the memory of her as a strong and supportive individual, thus using it as a means of coping with the grief of her loss. The narrator’s attempts to portray her mother as an active member of the community and tell the story through her eyes indicate a close connection between her and the storyteller. Therefore, these brief yet accurate details provide an insight into the nature of the narrator’s relationships with her mother.

Work Cited

Munro, Alice. “Friend of My Youth.” Friend of My Youth, Vintage Books, 1991, pp. 9-37.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "“Friend of My Youth” by Alice Munro." February 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/friend-of-my-youth-by-alice-munro/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) '“Friend of My Youth” by Alice Munro'. 6 February.

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