Runaway

by

Alice Munro

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Carla Character Analysis

Carla is a young woman living with her husband Clark in their mobile home in Canada. She met Clark when she was 18, a few years before the beginning of the story, and decided to leave behind her family and their expectations (that Carla go to college and get a high-paying job) to live with Clark and work with horses. Though she did initially fall in love with Clark, he has a bad temper and is emotionally neglectful. Carla is unhappy with him but doesn’t see a way out of the relationship—she is dependent on him financially and emotionally and does not have many ties to friends or family. Carla’s saving grace is her pet goat Flora, so she finds Flora’s disappearance highly distressing. She often goes to her neighbor Sylvia’s house to help out with chores, which Carla hates, though she eventually develops an affinity for Sylvia after she helps Carla plan an escape from Clark. Carla is ultimately unable to follow through with leaving Clark and resigns herself to staying with him even after discovering that he may have killed Flora, though Carla harbors a deep resentment.

Carla Quotes in Runaway

The Runaway quotes below are all either spoken by Carla or refer to Carla. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
).
Runaway Quotes

In the first dream Flora had walked right up to the bed with a red apple in her mouth, but in the second dream—last night—she had run away when she saw Carla coming. Her leg seemed to be hurt but she ran anyway. She led Carla to a barbed-wire barricade of the kind that might belong on some battlefield, and then she—Flora—slipped through it, hurt leg and all, just slithered through like a white eel and disappeared.

Related Characters: Carla, Clark
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

What Clark balked at was tearing up the carpet, which was the same in every room and the thing that she had most counted on replacing. It was divided into small brown squares, each with a pattern of darker brown and rust and tan squiggles and shapes. For a long time she had thought these were the same squiggles and shapes, arranged in the same way, in each square. Then when she had had more time, a lot of time, to examine them, she decided that there were four patterns joined together to make identical larger squares. Sometimes she could pick out the arrangement easily and sometimes she had to work to see it.

Related Characters: Carla, Clark
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

At first she had been Clark’s pet entirely, following him everywhere, dancing for his attention. She was quick and graceful and provocative as a kitten, and her resemblance to a guileless girl in love had made them both laugh. But as she grew older she seemed to attach herself to Carla, and in this attachment she was suddenly much wiser, less skittish—she seemed capable, instead, of a subdued and ironic sort of humor.

Related Characters: Carla, Clark
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

It was almost a relief, though, to feel the single pain of missing Flora, of missing Flora perhaps forever, compared to the mess she had got into concerning Mrs. Jamieson, and her seesaw misery with Clark. At least Flora’s leaving was not on account of anything she—Carla—had done wrong.

Related Characters: Carla, Clark, Sylvia Jamieson
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

“It’s said to represent a racehorse,” Sylvia said. “Making that final spurt, the last effort in a race. The rider, too, the boy, you can see he’s urging the horse on to the limit of its strength.”

She did not mention that the boy had made her think of Carla, and she could not now have said why. He was only about ten or eleven years old. Maybe the strength and grace of the arm that must have held the reins, or the wrinkles in his childish forehead, the absorption and the pure effort there was in some way like Carla cleaning the big windows last spring.

Related Characters: Carla, Sylvia Jamieson
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

As Mrs. Jamieson might say—and as she herself might with satisfaction have said—taking charge of her own life. With nobody glowering over her, nobody’s mood infecting her with misery.

But what would she care about? How would she know that she was alive?

While she was running away from him—now—Clark still kept his place in her life. But when she was finished running away, when she just went on, what would she put in his place? What else –who else—could ever be so vivid a challenge?

Related Characters: Carla, Clark
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Her feet seemed now to be at some enormous distance from her body, Her knees, in the unfamiliar crisp pants, were weighted with irons. She was sinking to the ground like a stricken horse who will never get up.

Related Characters: Carla, Sylvia Jamieson, Clark
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

“Goats are unpredictable,” Clark said. “They can seem tame but they’re not really. Not after they grow up.”

“Is she grown-up? She looks so small.”

“She’s big as she’s ever going to get.”

Related Characters: Clark (speaker), Sylvia Jamieson (speaker), Carla
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

A skull that she could hold like a teacup in one hand. Knowledge in one hand.

Or perhaps not. Nothing there.

Other things could have happened. He could have chased Flora away. Or tied her in the back of the truck and driven some distance and set her loose. Taken her back to the place they’d got her from. Not to have her around, reminding them.

She might be free.

The days passed and Carla didn’t go near that place. She held out against the temptation.

Related Characters: Carla, Clark, Sylvia Jamieson
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Runaway LitChart as a printable PDF.
Runaway PDF

Carla Character Timeline in Runaway

The timeline below shows where the character Carla appears in Runaway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Runaway
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Carla is at home when she hears an approaching car and hopes it is not her... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Carla goes outside to check if the ground is dry because she is supposed to be... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Clark is inside on the computer while Carla is outside. He is looking for a way to buy roofing for the repairs. This... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Despite these hardships, what’s troubling Carla the most is the fact that their pet goat, Flora, has been missing for two... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Three years ago, when Carla moved into the mobile home with Clark, she grew excited about redecorating. Clark even went... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Clark says that Sylvia (Mrs. Jamieson) called while Carla was outside and asked if Carla could come over to help clean the next day.... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Recently, leading up to this rift, Clark and Carla read Leon Jamieson’s (Sylvia’s husband) obituary in the paper. Leon was much older than Sylvia,... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Carla reflects on the story Clark wants her to tell Mrs. Jamieson—the story is, in reality,... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
At the Jamiesons’ house, Sylvia is looking forward to seeing Carla. Sylvia enjoys Carla’s presence and is grateful for Carla’s help cleaning the house and clearing... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Carla seems distracted as she and Sylvia talk, and eventually the conversation turns to Flora. Carla... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Carla and Sylvia drink wine and formulate a plan for Carla’s departure. In a note for... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Later, after Carla has boarded the bus to Toronto and Sylvia drops off the note to Clark in... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
When Carla first boards the bus, she is afraid Clark will see her, but she relaxes as... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
As Carla sits on the bus thinking of Clark, she begins to cry. She imagines being alone... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...Clark offers her a bag of clothes, and Sylvia realizes they’re the clothes she lent Carla. Terrified, she asks where Carla is, and Clark responds that she’s at home in bed.... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Sylvia explains that she was trying to help Carla, and Clark tells her that Carla called him in tears to come get her. Sylvia... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Clark wakes Carla as he enters their house. He tells her that he heard something in the middle... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...sunny out. Business starts to boom once again with trail rides and lessons. Clark and Carla are getting along much better than before. Clark jokes that if Carla leaves again, he’ll... (full context)
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One day shortly thereafter, Carla finds a letter in the mailbox from Mrs. Jamieson. In it, Sylvia apologizes for getting... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
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Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Carla goes about her days ordinarily and doesn’t mention the letter or Flora to Clark. She... (full context)