(Urgent) What is the plot in Alice Munro's "Oranges and Apples"?

same as title.

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  • 1 decade ago
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    It's about a middle-aged woman who refuses to go along with the role expected of her by her husband.

    Below is an excerpt from http://stevenwbeattie.com/2008/08/11/31-days-of-sh... /

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    Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of Murray Zeigler, who runs a lodge in the “rough and hilly” land of southwestern Ontario — the geography that has come to be known as “Munro country” by CanLit aficionados. Murray lives with his wife, Barbara, and their two children. Barbara is a former “looker” who has changed in appearance over the years of her marriage: “She did not get really fat, but she put on twenty or twenty-five pounds, well distributed over her tall, never delicate frame.” She is described as “heavy,” and her formerly black hair has gone white around her face, “as if a piece of veiling had been thrown over it.”

    Murray has also changed. He has turned his back on his desire to become a United Church minister, the ambition that prompted him to pursue a sociology degree in university, and has become “a busy loudmouth on the municipal scene.” Barbara, by contrast, has never been to college, and there is the suggestion throughout that the Zeiglers tend to look down on her as being common. “I’m sure she is really a nice girl, but I’m not sure she has been very well educated,” is how Murray’s mother puts it, and Barbara is described at one point as going out into the streets of town dressed in “one of the styles of the time, the style not of Audrey Hepburn but of Tina Louise.”

    Barbara’s lack of sophistication is contrasted with that of Victor Sawicky, Murray’s Polish friend, who is “tall and light-boned and looked polished” (that last is an example of Munro’s often not-so-subtle humour). When Victor first appears to Murray, at the Zeigler family store, which Murray will inherit from his father and summarily run into bankruptcy, Murray immediately puts him “into the same class of human beings as Barbara” — that is, people he is attracted to. There are notes of sublimated homosexual longing in Munro’s description of Murray’s reactions to Victor: despite the fact that he makes a distinction between Victor and Barbara, with whom he “wanted to sleep,” he nevertheless feels drawn to the European man in ways that are not entirely platonic:

    Victor drew his attention as a sleek and princely animal might — say, a golden palomino, bold but high-strung, shy about the stir he created. You’d try to say something soothing but deferential and stroke his shining neck, if he’d let you.

    When Murray invites Victor and his wife, Beatrice, over for dinner, Barbara’s lack of sophistication annoys him. He is critical of the food — the potatoes “seemed greasy … and slightly on the raw side,” the vegetables “were overcooked,” and the pecan pie “was too rich a dessert for the meal, and the crust was too brown” — and when Victor compares Barbara to Katerina Ivanovna Verkhovtsev, Dimitri Karamatzov’s fiancée from Dostoevsky’s novel, she responds by saying that she thinks Katerina is a pain: “Murray knew by the abrupt halt of her words that she had been about to say ‘pain in the ****.’ ”

    The shift in the story occurs when Murray returns home unexpectedly one afternoon and witnesses Victor spying on his wife sunbathing. From this he surmises that Victor and Barbara are having an affair. Munro is never explicit in this, and she effects an almost Jamesian subtlety in the way she moves her characters around like chess pieces; we see them now in one relationship to one another, now in a different relationship. This is intensified by the complex time structure Munro has imposed upon the story: most of the story takes place in flashback prompted by a glimpse of the Sawickys’ old farm, which the Zeiglers pass on their way to the hospital to have a tumour that Barbara has discovered biopsied. Far from feeling artificially imposed, this structure heightens the reader’s awareness of the enduring nature of the Zeiglers’ relationship, and lends Murray’s suspicions a greater element of danger and potential for disaster.

    When Murray witnesses Victor watching Barbara, he is unable to comprehend the full import of the scene: “He said, My life has changed, my life has been changed, but he did not understand it at all.” The subtle shift in voice from the active to the passive in Murray’s thought is a testament to Munro’s care in delineating the complexities of her characters’ psyches; she refuses to reduce her people to a set of bald oppositions, but allows them to exist in all their tangled humanity. Murray alternately responds to the notion of Barbara leaving him by thinking that he is “being robbed,” and that he is “being freed of his life.”

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