The Bear Came Over the Mountain

by

Alice Munro

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Grant Character Analysis

Grant is a retired professor of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic literature and husband to Fiona, who has dementia. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” tells the story of Fiona moving into a residential care facility from Grant’s perspective, contrasted with his memories of his affairs and their shared life. Grant secured his position at the university with Fiona’s father’s financial assistance. The two have no children, though Grant does not seem to mourn this fact. Once women enter Grant’s classes as part of larger social shifts during the 1960s and 1970s, Grant begins a series of affairs, which “dramatically increase his sense of well-being” despite the fact that he still loves Fiona and views her with a kind of awe. By contrast, Grant views his lovers, and women more broadly, with a generalized misogyny, looking down at any perceived emotionalism in their behavior or error in their academic inclinations. Grant does not, however, wish to leave Fiona, nor to risk his relationship with her. After an affair with a student goes sour, Grant is pushed out by his colleagues and chooses to retire from the university, moving with Fiona to a farmhouse property left to her by her father. When Fiona enters Meadowlake, Grant visits her frequently. Despite being distressed by her relationship with Aubrey, he does not attempt to keep them apart. In fact, after Fiona expresses consistent distress over Aubrey’s departure from Meadowlake, Grant even attempts to negotiate meetings between the two via Aubrey’s wife Marian. Though this attempt leads to Grant embarking on a presumed affair with Marian, he does also bring Aubrey to visit Fiona. The story makes clear his love for and commitment to his wife despite his regular trespassing of marital boundaries.

Grant Quotes in The Bear Came Over the Mountain

The The Bear Came Over the Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Grant or refer to Grant. 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 a heavy young woman who looked as if she had given up on her looks in every department except her hair. That was blond and voluminous. All the puffed-up luxury of a cocktail waitress’s style, or a stripper’s, on top of such a workaday face and body.

Related Characters: Grant, Kristy
Page Number: 278
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:

Young girls with long hair and sandalled feet were coming into his office and all but declaring themselves ready for sex.

Related Characters: Grant
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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Grant Character Timeline in The Bear Came Over the Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Grant 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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...and a pile of cashmere sweaters.” Fiona is being courted by several young men, including Grant, and while she makes fun of them all, she proposes to Grant during a day... (full context)
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Grant, now much older, remembers this as he and Fiona are leaving their home. Fiona notices... (full context)
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Grant then remembers how, a year ago, he had started noticing Fiona leaving yellow post-it notes... (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 lived for twelve years.... (full context)
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...about her long-dead Russian wolfhounds Boris and Natasha. Thinking of the dogs in the present, Grant remembers how Fiona may have adopted them after finding out that she couldn’t have children,... (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... (full context)
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...due to the high emotional strain of the holiday season. So, in January, she and Grant drive there together. On the way, Fiona reminisces about a time they went cross-country skiing... (full context)
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...for the first thirty days in order to ease their settling in. The supervisor assures Grant that “if they’re left on their own the first month they usually end up happy... (full context)
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Grant speaks most frequently with a nurse named Kristy. Kristy lets him know that Fiona catches... (full context)
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One night during this period, Grant dreams that he receives a letter from the roommate of a girl with whom he... (full context)
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When he wakes up from this dream, Grant reviews what actually happened and what was a part of his dream. While he did... (full context)
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Grant thinks to himself that his life as a philanderer, though he disputes this label, had... (full context)
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Grant acknowledges, however, that their life had been affected by his affairs. After the incident with... (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... (full context)
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Grant again recalls his many affairs as he prepares to visit Fiona at Meadowlake after her... (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... (full context)
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 Fiona is distracted from her conversation with Grant by Aubrey, who clearly wants her to return to the table. Grant notices “a blush... (full context)
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Grant speaks to Kristy, who brushes this relationship off as normal, saying that many new patients... (full context)
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Grant continues to visit, but Fiona simply treats him with polite distance. Grant learns from Kristy... (full context)
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...or sit in the conservatory speaking to each other lovingly. When Fiona spends time with Grant Aubrey expresses his distaste through dropping his cards. (full context)
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Grant makes an effort to respect their relationship, reducing his visits to twice a week. Because... (full context)
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One day, Grant sees Fiona wheeling Aubrey outside. He registers that she is wearing a “silly” wool hat... (full context)
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Grant flashes back to his teaching career. At the beginning, he remembers, he gets “the regular... (full context)
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Grant’s first lover, one of these women, is named Jacqui Adams. She is the opposite of... (full context)
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...attitudes towards sex taking place in the sixties creates a great deal of drama at Grant’s university. “Scandals burst wide open” and some of Grant’s colleagues receive reprisals and firings, though... (full context)
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While it seems to Grant that most people in his social world are involved in this sexual revolution, he acknowledges... (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... (full context)
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...her on a walker or moving her to a more intensive care section of Meadowlake, Grant decides to visit Aubrey’s wife and see if he can negotiate a visit. (full context)
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Grant remembers the neighborhood as a place where their friends had moved with young children, and... (full context)
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Grant notices the care that Marian has taken with the home, conveyed by the living room’s... (full context)
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Grant and Marian share a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Grant compliments the coffeemaker, seeking... (full context)
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Grant uses this topic to try and steer the conversation towards Fiona, asking if Marian wouldn’t... (full context)
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Marian serves him homemade ginger cookies while Grant poses this question, then says no, stating that she doesn’t want to upset or confuse... (full context)
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Grant asks if Marian ever considered putting Aubrey in Meadowlake full-time. When Marian says no, he... (full context)
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Grant is depressed by his conversation with Marian, which reminds Grant of his mother and the... (full context)
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Grant acknowledges that Marian must have had some hopes of a better life when she married... (full context)
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When Grant returns home, he has two voicemails from Marian asking him to attend a singles dance... (full context)
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Grant continues to imagine Marian waiting for him to call, calculating the distance of his drive,... (full context)
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While drinking, Grant remembers that the word for the curtains that Fiona mocked by Marian decorated her house... (full context)
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Later, Grant visits Fiona at Meadowlake again. He notes that she is wearing a short dress, which... (full context)