Runaway

by

Alice Munro

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Clark is Carla’s husband. The story leaves his background relatively murky, but it is clear that he is not well educated and has moved around a lot, doing various odd jobs for work. He lives with Carla in the mobile home and manages the business boarding horses and giving riding lessons, which is how he makes a living for himself and Carla. Clark strongly resents his family for reasons that are not revealed. He is brooding, moody, and has a hot temper, which causes problems for his and Carla’s social lives. He is controlling of Carla and does not allow her much agency, and he neglects her emotionally. Clark seems perpetually annoyed by Carla, which drives her away, but he is also afraid that she will leave him. Clark is controlling and combative not just to Carla, but to everyone around him. When he realizes that Sylvia tried to help Carla escape, he shows up at Sylvia’s house in the middle of the night and tries to intimidate and scare her, demanding that she stay out of his life. When Carla’s goat Flora returns, Clark secretly does away with her (either killing her or taking her somewhere—it’s left unclear), and the story implies that he may become violent with Carla if she tries to leave him.

Clark Quotes in Runaway

The Runaway quotes below are all either spoken by Clark or refer to Clark. 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:

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:

The fog had thickened, taken on a separate shape, transformed itself into something spiky and radiant. First a live dandelion ball, tumbling forward, then condensing itself into an unearthly sort of animal, pure white, hell-bent, something like a giant unicorn, rushing at them.

“Jesus Christ,” Clark said softly and devoutly.

Related Characters: Clark (speaker), Clark, Sylvia Jamieson
Related Symbols: Flora
Page Number: 39
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

Clark Character Timeline in Runaway

The timeline below shows where the character Clark appears in Runaway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Runaway
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...and something about her neighbor’s facial expression makes Carla recoil. She wonders if her husband, Clark, is aware that Mrs. Jamieson has returned from her trip—or, if not, when he will... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...been much worse this summer. The rain has damaged the horse-riding ring, and Carla and Clark are both spending a lot of time and money on fixing it. (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Clark is inside on the computer while Carla is outside. He is looking for a way... (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 along with making home improvements for a... (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... (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... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Carla reflects on the story Clark wants her to tell Mrs. Jamieson—the story is, in reality, a lie she told Clark.... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...Sylvia questions whether it’s really about Flora. Carla discloses that she can’t stand living with Clark and that she feels like he hates her. Sylvia suggests that Carla leave, which Carla... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...formulate a plan for Carla’s departure. In a note for Sylvia to drop off to Clark, Carla mistakenly writes, “I will be all write,” leading Sylvia to believe that Carla is... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...after Carla has boarded the bus to Toronto and Sylvia drops off the note to Clark in the mailbox, Sylvia goes for a walk and reminisces about how she used to... (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 she gets farther from town. At Mrs. Jamieson’s... (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 in Toronto, how unfamiliar everything will be,... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...no one is there. As she looks around in confusion, she hears someone laugh. It’s Clark, who is just out of sight behind the window. Sylvia is afraid of him and... (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 says Carla... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Clark and Sylvia are relieved to see Flora, having thought at first that there was some... (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... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...warm and 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... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...freedom and happiness. Sylvia writes that Carla should find happiness in her present situation with Clark. To Carla’s surprise, the letter goes on to describe in detail the scene when Flora... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
Carla goes about her days ordinarily and doesn’t mention the letter or Flora to Clark. She shows him no contempt, though she has “a murderous needle somewhere in her lungs.”... (full context)