The Bear Came Over the Mountain

by

Alice Munro

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Fiona Character Analysis

Fiona, Grant’s wife, grew up relatively carefree in an upper-class home yet now, in her seventies, has dementia. She is a beautiful and charismatic woman who chose Grant out of an array of suitors and proposed marriage to him when they were young. Fiona’s parents were wealthy; Fiona’s mother was politically active, though Fiona herself has never really cared about politics or social status. She prefers a joking, ironic mode of social interaction, which keeps her from earnestness, effusiveness, or emotionalism—a mode of behavior that Grant respects. Fiona cannot have children, and, after she learns this, adopts two Afghan wolfhounds named Boris and Natasha on whom she dotes (both of whom have died by the time Fiona enters the Meadowlake facility). Fiona does not have any mentioned career. She and Grant, after his retirement, spend their time working on the farmhouse and cross-country skiing. Grant refers to Fiona’s reading and love for Iceland, where her mother is from, despite never wanting to visit the country. After entering Meadowlake, Fiona forms a romantic relationship with another resident, Aubrey, and is unable to remember Grant as her husband, treating him with polite distance. Fiona calls Aubrey “dear heart,” helps him play cards, and wheels him through the conservatory and the grounds of the facility. When Aubrey leaves the home to return to his wife’s care, Fiona is distraught, and refuses to eat or get out of bed. By the time Grant successfully negotiates a visit for the two, however, Fiona has forgotten Aubrey, though she remembers Grant, and thanks him for not “forsaking” her.

Fiona Quotes in The Bear Came Over the Mountain

The The Bear Came Over the Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Fiona or refer to Fiona. 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:
Love, Fidelity, and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Random House edition of The Bear Came Over the Mountain published in 2014.
The Bear Came Over the Mountain Quotes

He thought maybe she was joking when she proposed to him, on a cold bright day on the beach at Port Stanley. Sand was stinging their faces and the waves delivered crashing loads of gravel at their feet.

“Do you think it would be fun—” Fiona shouted. “Do you think it would be fun if we got married?”

He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be away from her. She had the spark of life.

Related Characters: Fiona (speaker), Grant
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

Her hair, which was as light as milkweed fluff, had gone from pale blond to white somehow without Grant’s noticing exactly when, and she still wore it down to her shoulders, as her mother had done. (That was the thing that had alarmed Grant’s own mother, a small-town widow who worked as a doctor’s receptionist. The long white hair on Fiona’s mother, even more than the state of the house, had told her all she needed to know about attitudes and politics.)

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, Fiona’s Mother, Grant’s Mother
Related Symbols: Fiona’s Hair
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

These were the Russian wolfhounds she had adopted many years ago, as a favor to a friend, then devoted herself to for the rest of their lives. Her taking them over might have coincided with the discovery that she was not likely to have children. Something about her tubes being blocked, or twisted—Grant could not remember now. He had always avoided thinking about all that female apparatus. Or it might have been after her mother died.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, Boris and Natasha
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

“Whereas we find,” the supervisor said, “we find that if they’re left on their own they usually end up happy as clams.”

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

They had usually prepared supper together. One of them made the drinks and the other the fire, and they talked about his work (he was writing a study of legendary Norse wolves and particularly of the great wolf Fenrir, which swallows up Odin at the end of the world) and about whatever Fiona was reading and what they had been thinking during their close but separate day. This was their time of liveliest intimacy, though there was also, of course, the five or ten minutes of physical sweetness just after they got into bed—something that did not often end in sex but reassured them that sex was not over yet.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona
Page Number: 274-275
Explanation and Analysis:

Just in time, Grant was able to think, when the sense of injustice had worn down. The feminists and perhaps the sad silly girl herself and his cowardly so-called friends had pushed him out just in time. Out of a life that was in fact getting to be more trouble than it was worth. And that might eventually have cost him Fiona.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, The Girl, Colleague
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

She was wearing a silly wool hat and a jacket with swirls of blue and purple, the sort of thing he had seen on local women at the supermarket.

The fact must be that they didn’t bother to sort out the wardrobes of the women who were roughly the same size. And counted on the women not to recognize their own clothes anyway.

They had cut her hair, too. They had cut away her angelic halo. On a Wednesday, when everything was more normal [...] and when Aubrey and Fiona were again in evidence, so that it was possible for Grant to have one of his brief and friendly and maddening conversations with his wife, he said to her, “Why did they chop off your hair?”

Fiona put her hands up to her head, to check.

“Why—I never missed it,” she said.

Related Characters: Grant (speaker), Fiona (speaker), Aubrey
Related Symbols: Fiona’s Hair
Page Number: 287-288
Explanation and Analysis:

She was the opposite of Fiona—short, cushiony, dark-eyed, effusive. A stranger to irony. The affair lasted for a year, until her husband was transferred. When they were saying goodbye in her car, she began to shake uncontrollably. It was as if she had hypothermia. She wrote to him a few times, but he found the tone of her letters overwrought and could not decide how to answer.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, Jacqui Adams
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

Grant caught sight of two layers of front-window curtains, both blue, one sheer and one silky, a matching blue sofa and a daunting pale carpet, various bright mirrors and ornaments.

Fiona had a word for those sort of swooping curtains—she said it like a joke, though the women she’d picked it up from used it seriously. Any room that Fiona fixed up was bare and bright—she would have deplored the crowding of all this fancy stuff into such a small space.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, Marian
Related Symbols: Drapes
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

His uncles, his relatives, probably even his mother, had thought the way Marian thought. They had believed that when other people did not think that way it was because they were kidding themselves—they had got too airy-fairy, or stupid, on account of their easy and protected lives or their education. They had lost touch with reality. Educated people, literary people, some rich people like Grant’s socialist in-laws had lost touch with reality. Due to an unmerited good fortune or an innate silliness. In Grant’s case, he suspected, they pretty well believed it was both.

That was how Marian would see him, certainly. A silly person, full of boring knowledge and protected by some fluke from the truth about life [...]

He might have married her. Think of it. He might have married some girl like that. If he’d stayed back where he belonged.

Related Characters: Grant, Fiona, Marian, Grant’s Mother
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’m happy to see you,” she said, and pulled his earlobes.

“You could have just driven away,” she said. “Just driven away without a care in the world and forsook me. Forsooken me. Forsaken.”

He kept his face against her white hair, her pink scalp, her sweetly shaped skull. He said, “Not a chance.”

Related Characters: Grant (speaker), Fiona (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fiona’s Hair
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fiona Character Timeline in The Bear Came Over the Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Fiona appears in The Bear Came Over the Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Bear Came Over the Mountain
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Fiona lives with her parents in a large house that is at once “luxurious and disorderly.”... (full context)
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Grant, now much older, remembers this as he and Fiona are leaving their home. Fiona notices a scuff on the floor from her shoes and... (full context)
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Grant then remembers how, a year ago, he had started noticing Fiona leaving yellow post-it notes around the house. While Fiona often left herself little notes, such... (full context)
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In one instance, Fiona thought she and Grant had only recently moved into the house in which they had... (full context)
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Fiona continued to get worse until she could no longer function on her own. Once, she... (full context)
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Many people, Grant assumed, might have seen Boris and Natasha as one of Fiona’s “eccentric whims,” just as they might have viewed him in the early days of their... (full context)
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The care facility where Fiona is moving has a rule that no one can be admitted during December, due to... (full context)
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...prior at Meadowlake. The facility has since been renovated, but Grant cannot help from picturing Fiona in the old Meadowlake as he calls the nurses daily for updates on her. (full context)
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Grant speaks most frequently with a nurse named Kristy. Kristy lets him know that Fiona catches a cold, comparing this incident to “kids at school” getting sick, but Fiona gets... (full context)
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...He shows this letter to a colleague, who reacts with consternation, advising Grant to prepare Fiona. In the dream, Grant then enters a lecture hall full of young women in mourning... (full context)
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...a letter (as well as the word “rat” written on his office door). He told Fiona simply that the girl had a crush on him, rather than acknowledging the affair, and... (full context)
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...catered to the women with whom he became involved. While he acknowledges that he deceived Fiona, he wonders whether it would have been better for him to leave her instead of... (full context)
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...his affairs. After the incident with the girl, he retired, and the two moved to Fiona’s father’s farmhouse in Georgian Bay, which Fiona inherited after his death. (full context)
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This move precipitated a “new life” for Grant and Fiona. They kept socializing to a minimum, though they did make some friends, and occupied their... (full context)
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Grant again recalls his many affairs as he prepares to visit Fiona at Meadowlake after her first month. He feels a sense of anticipation that reminds him... (full context)
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Kristy shows Grant to Fiona’s room, which is devoid of personal décor. Fiona is not there, so Kristy shows Grant... (full context)
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 Fiona is distracted from her conversation with Grant by Aubrey, who clearly wants her to return... (full context)
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Grant continues to visit, but Fiona simply treats him with polite distance. Grant learns from Kristy that Aubrey does not have... (full context)
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Fiona and Aubrey spend most of their time together at the card table, though they also... (full context)
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...his visits to twice a week. Because Aubrey does not receive visitors, however, he and Fiona often disappear during this time, sometimes to their rooms, a fact about which Grant feels... (full context)
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One day, Grant sees Fiona wheeling Aubrey outside. He registers that she is wearing a “silly” wool hat and a... (full context)
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...first lover, one of these women, is named Jacqui Adams. She is the opposite of Fiona in both appearance and personality. Their affair lasts a year, until her husband’s transfer. While... (full context)
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...most people in his social world are involved in this sexual revolution, he acknowledges that Fiona remained disinterested in it. However, as a result of his affairs, Grant begins to feel... (full context)
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On his next visit to Meadowlake, Grant brings Fiona a book of watercolors illustrating Iceland, as she had developed a recent interest in the... (full context)
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Although Kristy says that Fiona will recover from her grief, she does not, refusing to eat or get out of... (full context)
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...well-kept. Aubrey’s wife, Marian, assumes that Grant is there with a grievance about Aubrey and Fiona’s relationship, and treats him coldly. Once Grant clarifies that he does not have any issues... (full context)
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...by the living room’s curtains, matching sofa and carpet, and various ornaments. He reflects that Fiona would have scorned this type of interior design, preferring simpler and bright rooms; in particular... (full context)
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Grant uses this topic to try and steer the conversation towards Fiona, asking if Marian wouldn’t mind bringing Aubrey back to Meadowlake to visit her. He also... (full context)
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...their “money first” attitude. He wonders if Marian sees him and his quest to ensure Fiona’s happiness as out of touch with reality due to their relative wealth, thinking that she... (full context)
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...“anything is possible,” even imagining that he could convince her to bring Aubrey to meet Fiona. (full context)
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While drinking, Grant remembers that the word for the curtains that Fiona mocked by Marian decorated her house with is “drapes.” He remembers her ginger cookies and... (full context)
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Later, Grant visits Fiona at Meadowlake again. He notes that she is wearing a short dress, which Fiona also... (full context)