Alice Munro

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Runaway Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alice Munro's Runaway. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Alice Munro

Alice Munro was born Alice Laidlaw in rural southern Ontario, Canada, which is also the setting of most of her stories. Munro’s father was a farmer, and her mother was a teacher. She began writing when she was a teenager and published her first short story when she was 19 years old and studying English at the University of Western Ontario. She left school after two years to marry James Munro. They moved to West Vancouver, where they had three daughters. In 1963, the family moved to Victoria, British Columbia, and opened a bookstore called Munro’s Books. In 1965, Munro published Dance of the Happy Shades, a collection of short stories, to critical acclaim. In 1972, after having a fourth daughter, Alice and James Munro separated and Alice went back to the University of Western Ontario to become a writer in residence. There, Munro married her second husband, Gerald Fremlin. Since 2009, Alice Munro has suffered various health conditions that have prevented her from travel and public appearance. Munro’s most recent short story compilation is Dear Life, published in 2012. In 2013, her husband died, and in the same year, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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Historical Context of Runaway

Munro’s work draws heavily on the author’s own childhood and upbringing, but Canadian culture evolved quickly throughout her life and career. Munro’s ancestors immigrated from Scotland, as did many Canadians at the time. But since then, there have been significant waves of immigration to Canada from other parts of the world, as well as a growing promotion of Canada’s indigenous people and culture. In fact, Munro’s contemporary Margaret Laurence was famed for her public advocacy for the rights of indigenous people. Munro does not write explicitly of these movements, as they took place largely in urban populations and her focus is on rural life. Alice Munro also wrote in the vein of second wave feminism, which was a movement throughout the 1960s to 1980s. This movement aimed to expand the basic gender equality that first wave feminism focused on and drew attention to how patriarchy dominated culture in more subliminal ways. Munro’s female characters often suffer due to limitations that men impose on them, and in fact this is the most significant theme in her work at large.

Other Books Related to Runaway

“Runaway is the titular first story in the collection of short stories Runaway. Each piece in the collection focuses on a female protagonist and her complex social relationships, an, in particular, romantic endeavors. As per the title, escape is a prevailing motif throughout the collection—the characters often try (unsuccessfully) to run away from their problems. Three of the stories in this collection center around a single protagonist, Juliet. These were adapted into a film called Julieta in 2016. Alice Munro’s work is often compared to the short stories of Anton Chekhov. Both authors write about the emotional turmoil of human relationships through an objective and realistic lens, and both center their stories more around psychological narrative than plot. Munro and Chekhov are also both notable for the nonlinear way that they use time in their writing, which is unconventional for short stories. Alice Munro was celebrated for her work’s Canadian nationalism, and many her of Canadian contemporaries supported her. Feminist Canadian writer Margaret Laurence was a good friend and literary influence on Munro. Margaret Atwood is another contemporary of Munro, and the themes of her work are similar. Laurence, Atwood, and Munro all write unabashedly about Canada and gender, in ways that were bold for their time.
Key Facts about Runaway
  • Full Title: Runaway
  • Where Written: Clinton, Ontario, Canada
  • When Published: 2004
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Short Story, Fiction, Southern Ontario Gothic
  • Setting: Rural Canada
  • Climax: Flora appears at Sylvia’s house when Clark is there in the middle of the night.
  • Antagonist: Clark
  • Point of View: Third Person Omniscient

Extra Credit for Runaway

Rewriting. Alice Munro is known for rewriting and republishing her stories several times over. She revised her story Wood 30 years after it was first published, although she rewrote both Passion and Save The Reaper in the same years they were first published.

Legacy. Munro’s oldest daughter Sheila wrote a memoir about her family titled Lives And Mothers: Growing Up With Alice Munro, which depicts Alice Munro as fostering a warm and loving family life for her children, though Sheila also touches on the pressures of having to make one’s own life while having such a successful and famous mother.