Spelling and Differently - Analysis

The analysis of the two short stories "Spelling" and "Differently" written by Alice Munro deal with female relationships. These relationships paint a vivid picture of the kinship, deception, challenges, and associations that affect friends and family as they journey through life.

"Spelling" is about the relationship of two women, Rose and Flo. Although from the outset the relationship between Rose and Flo is not clear, near the end the reader has no doubt they are mother and daughter. Munro illustrates the awkward relationship between a parent and a child and the sometimes difficult problems that face children as their parents age. After visiting the county home in an attempt to find a place for Flo to live, "Rose spoke of the view and the pleasant rooms. Flo looked angry; her face darkened and she stuck out her lip. Rose handed her a mobile she had bought for 50 cents in the County Home crafts centre.... Stick it up your arse, said Flo" (Oates 151). The reader sees no affection between the two. In fact, the tone of the story illustrates a lack of acceptance and even disappointment by Flo and shows that there has always been a distance between the two.

The title is derived from a patient Rose met at the nursing home whose only communication was spelling words. After meeting this patient, Rose dreamed that Flo was in a cage and spelling words like the old patient she met in the nursing home. Rose tells Flo about her visit to the nursing home and is obviously trying to influence Flo into going to the home. Flo is suffering from some sort of dementia, perhaps Alzheimer's. In this story the author doesn't tell the characters ages, Rose's occupation, and other information necessary to develop a clear picture. Instead, Munro makes the reader use more of ones imagination in developing the story. Although Munro is not explicit, the story is about an unhappy relationship between a daughter and mother.

In the story the narrator flashes back to a time in Rose's career when she was in a play with her breast exposed. Flo showed her displeasure by writing her a letter that said "shame" and adding that if her father was not already dead, he would wish that he was (Oates 154). Yet, the reader feels that Rose is still trying to earn her mother's respect and love. Another time, Rose invites her mother to an event where she is to accept an award for her work. Flo attends this function, although her behavior is outrageous and it appears that she is already suffering from some mental disorder. Because of her mother's dementia, Rose must realize that she will never feel the love or affection of her mother. In the end, Flo agrees to go to the nursing home. It is not until Flo is in the nursing home that you see a humorous woman, perhaps what she was in her earlier years.

When Rose brings a wig that Flo used to wear, Flo makes a joke about it looking like a dead squirrel. They laugh about it and at this point you feel more of a connection between the two women than at any point in the story.

An analysis of Munro's work by E.D. Blodgett tells the reader that "Her most recent work has addressed the problems of middle age, of women alone and the elderly. Characteristic of her style is the search for some revelatory gesture by which an event is illuminated and given personal significance" (Blodgett 1). In "Spelling," Munro demonstrates this revelatory gesture by the incident with the wig. Near the end of the story it is revealed that Flo has a humorous personality. Her dementia appears to leave and she is clear-headed.

The irony of the story is that although Flo, who has had no relationship with her daughter Rose for most of her adult life, now needs assistance or nursing care and finds that Rose is the one who is at her side through this transition period.

In the second short story "Differently" Munro is also talking about the relationship of two women, Georgia and Maya. Munro points out that these women become friends on more than one level, sharing stories, secrets, and special times together. The mood of the story changes abruptly with the introduction