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By Harold Bloom (Editor)

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Extra resources for Alice Munro (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)

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The Chinese image of heaven (Pi), which is shaped like a circle with a hole (analogous with cup or chalice) in the middle” (1962, 116). This circle can be spotted in Munro stories but it is mockingly reproduced. I am thinking, for example, of the “Hole-in-One” doughnut shop in “Providence” (WDY, 136). The grail implies “above all, the quest for the mystic ‘Centre’ ” (Cirlot, 1962, 116), but Munro is writing against the grain of this kind of symbolism. There are no knights at a Round Table here.

The very title, then, “The Peace of Utrecht,” is like a blind spot, like a deliberately failed clue. Like “The Moons of Jupiter,” which forms a kind of companion story to this one, the title is a careful mistitle. The “Peace” is an “understood” historical allusion which, by inversion, points to what we do not understand. It is in this sense that it is like the mother who also eludes possession and understanding. By this oddly oblique gesture, Munro claims a place in history for the maternal line.

Julie’s stories, though accounts of past events, are concerned with what they can effect in the present and the future; they demonstrate little concern with understanding the painful past that she rather cheerfully recounts. But the narrator does not tell her story as she would don a new dress—in order to achieve a certain effect.  . But it is interesting” (192). The different roots of the two words are revealing: tenir, to hold, in the first; esse, to be, in the second. The narrator’s story will have something to do with being, with essence, with experience; Julie’s holds that essence back.

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