Runaway

by

Alice Munro

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Sylvia Jamieson Character Analysis

Sylvia is Clark and Carla’s neighbor. Her husband Leon died recently, and Sylvia has just returned from a vacation to Greece with her friends. Leon was significantly older than Sylvia, but Sylvia is older than Clark and Carla. She is a professor of botany at a nearby university. Sylvia develops a fondness for Carla and enjoys having her over to help with housework. Sylvia appreciates Carla’s youthful and positive energy, especially in contrast to Sylvia’s similarly aged university students, who she finds annoying. Sylvia tries to help Carla when she learns of Clark’s mistreatment, but Sylvia doesn’t understand the depth or severity of Carla’s entrapment in the abusive relationship. Sylvia’s own marriage was healthy, and she thinks of her husband fondly in the aftermath of his death. Sylvia fears Clark when he shows up to her house in the middle of the night but softens toward him after Flora appears. At the end of the story, Sylvia writes a letter to Carla which unintentionally breaks the news that Flora returned. Sylvia is sympathetic to both Carla and Clark in the end, as she is oblivious to Clark’s true nature and motives.

Sylvia Jamieson Quotes in Runaway

The Runaway quotes below are all either spoken by Sylvia Jamieson or refer to Sylvia Jamieson. 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

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:

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

Sylvia Jamieson Character Timeline in Runaway

The timeline below shows where the character Sylvia Jamieson appears in Runaway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Runaway
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...at home when she hears an approaching car and hopes it is not her neighbor Mrs. Jamieson returning from a vacation in Greece. She looks out and sees that it is, in... (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... (full context)
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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, and he was a... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
...Jamiesons’ house even after Leon’s death, and though she hates going, she is grateful that Sylvia pays her. (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... (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 starts sobbing uncontrollably, which Sylvia finds... (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 Sylvia to... (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 the mailbox, Sylvia goes for a walk and... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...afraid Clark will see her, but she relaxes as she gets farther from town. At Mrs. Jamieson ’s house, leaving for Toronto seemed like the only good option Carla had. She feels... (full context)
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Back at the Jamiesons’ house, Sylvia opens the door to the knocking, but no one is there. As she looks around... (full context)
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Sylvia explains that she was trying to help Carla, and Clark tells her that Carla called... (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 kind of... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
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Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...check on things. He says that while he was up, he returned the clothes to Sylvia, but he doesn’t mention anything about Flora. Carla is alarmed and asks if he talked... (full context)
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...day shortly thereafter, Carla finds a letter in the mailbox from Mrs. Jamieson. In it, Sylvia apologizes for getting too involved in Carla’s life and for conflating freedom and happiness. Sylvia... (full context)
Attachment, Maturity, and Stability Theme Icon
Relationships and Control Theme Icon
Independence and Freedom Theme Icon
...She shows him no contempt, though she has “a murderous needle somewhere in her lungs.” Sylvia moves to a new apartment in a nearby town, but she doesn’t sell the old... (full context)