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Analysis Of Alice Munro’S Coming Of Age Story “Red Dress – 1946”

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As you grow into a teenager, reality begins to hit you all at once. Everything you once did not care about all begins to matter. Your social life and appearance become very important and this is why most teenagers hate the idea of growing up. The situation can become intimidating causing young adults to have tendency to conform and follow society, instead of going against the norm.

In Alice Munro’s coming of age story “Red Dress – 1946” the narrator is still very young and does not know who she is. It is easy to believe she might be pressured by others to conform, however, her nervousness to stand out, grow up and be different demonstrates that she is willingly trying hard to fit it and not stand out. Munro uses the symbolism of the red dress to demonstrate the narrators need to be like everyone else. Her trying on the dress symbolizes her attempt to be normal and “put on” a different person for a night at the dance. In the 1940s, a red dress was known to symbolize everything women should be or aim to be. That was sexually appealing, desirable and confidence, similar to a black dress today.

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However, the narrator does not like the idea that her mother made the dress as it makes her different then everyone else. She wishes “for dresses like those her friend Lonnie had, bought at Beale’s store.” Munro addresses more specifically the narrators will to conform when she gives her the chance to break away and be different but the character choses otherwise. This happens when she meets Mary fortune, who is different from the ordinary girl. Mary wants to become a physical education teacher and also wants to attend college, which at the time was considered rare for a woman.

The narrator at first seems very fascinated with Mary and is happy the girl saves her from the dance by inviting her out for food. However, the narrator choses to do otherwise when finally asked by a boy to dance. She follows society expectations of young girls’ behavior, choosing boys over everything else. This demonstrates that the narrator has denied the path of following Mary and being different. She even further demonstrates her wish to be ordinary as she addresses Raymond as being her “rescuer, that he had brought her from Mary’s Fortune’s territory into the ordinary world” leading to understand she thought Mary was not normal and even crazy mentioning she may come from another world simply because she was not the typical teenage girl.


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