ENG252Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Linoleum, Double Bind, Memento Mori

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Published on 18 Apr 2015
ENG252 Lecture 6 Term 2 Feb 10, 15
Alice Munro, "The Bear Came over the Mountain," cont.
The Ending
(pg. 283) "Fiona was in her room but not in bed..." - Quite a bit is left unclear, such as if Grant
has taken up Marian's proposal to attend the dance with her.
The ending portions of the story are told in Lacuna: a gap in the narration of events.
Q: Why is the story presented with a lacuna? What do the gaps and lack of answers create? A
(students opinions): suggestion that what's left out doesn't matter; it foregrounds the moments
of what matters - in this case, Fiona remembering Grant.
The lacuna is echoing a gap in Fiona's memory. Earlier, Kristy, a worker at Meadowlake, said
that sometimes patients get their memories back but it doesn't always last... maybe its
stressing that Fiona won't remember Grant later-on.
The scene is mimetic; it's reflecting the world of Fiona in which her past doesn't matter but
her present does. To do this, it's subjecting the past by creating a higher probability of her
remembering and not remembering Grant.
(Prof's thoughts): The last scene requires us to use everything we know about Grant to form a
plausible conclusion. We're once drawn into forming our own interpretation of him.
The words "dementia" and "Alzheimer’s" are not once mentioned in the text.
(pg. 284) "Fiona, I've brought a surprise for you. Do you remember Aubrey?" - Its not confirmed
until after the passage that this is Grant's perspective. It's notable as there's an ambiguity about
who Fiona loves. The story is unsettling the readers desire to know who is in love with whom.
The story is adding a Memento mori: "Remember (that you have) to die." It’s reminding us that
eventually everyone dies. This is something highly conventional in the mentioning of Fiona's
skull in the last section of the story. This is also referencing to the end of the world.
The story reminds us that it’s impossible to be together with someone all the time, which is
what Grant wants. He wants to be with Fiona forever.
Their two dogs, Borish and Natasha, are foils to Grant and Fiona.
Stoic acceptation seems to be the story's way of accepting death - accepting the memento mori.
Grant creates a heroic narrative where he brings Aubrey to Meadowlake to provide some form
of comfort for Fiona. It is done because it is something he wants to control... but Fiona's decease
is something he can't control, which is what he dislikes.
The Title
(Student thoughts on how the title can be used to comment on the story): crossing a mountain
is akin to journeying to another place and becoming another person. So Fiona represents the
bear - in a sense she's becoming a new person. It is a comment on aging and getting to another
place in life where your expectations are deflated. Grant might be the bear who goes off on a
quest to only experience a kind of deflation of expectations. You could say he's back to where he
started. There's something predator-like when mentioning a bear. It makes for something
unsettling. Remember there are also mentions of wolves (their pet dogs) in the story.
There's a signifier without a literal reference regarding the song's title: the bear went over the
mountain. We're put in the position of Fiona and asking what to do with language when we
don't know how use them... or don't remember how to use them. The story is calling our
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