Memory Matters: Alice Munro’s Narrative Handling of Alzheimer’s in "The Bear Came over the Mountain" and "In Sight of the Lake"

  • Begoña Simal Universidade da Coruña
Keywords: (Alice) Munro, Alzheimer’s, anagnorisis, ellipsis, narrative time


This essay analyzes two recent stories by Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001) and “In Sight of the Lake” (Dear Life, 2012). Both short stories attempt to fictionalize Alzheimer’s disease, albeit in different ways. What the two narratives share is the fact that, in tracing the characters’ attempts to cope with an increasingly obvious frailty of memory and dissolution of self, they both succeed in involving the reader in that very process of deterioration. Through her skilful handling of narrative time, linguistic ambiguity and epiphanic endings—including, in one case, anagnorisis—, Munro gives us a taste of what it must feel like to be aware of the crumbling of the self caused by Alzheimer’s. Not only does Munro narrate, skillfully as ever, the gradual decline associated with the disease, but she also manages to involve readers in that process of gradual decline and disorientation, by playing with our expectations, pointing at the undecidable nature of language and of narrative itself, and debunking all the certainties we had treasured so far.