? One of Munro's trademarks is her ambivalent presentation of characters. Choose three characters from the novel and show how they support this claim.
Whenever I find myself thinking about the years I spent in junior high and high school the memory of my grade eight-math class stands out. Math was never my favorite subject; therefore, I never really enjoyed math class. I remember clearly the first day I set my foot in my grade eight-math class I thought to myself how awful it was going to be to spend another year studying math. Little to my knowledge, all of my negative anticipations about math were about to change. My change of heart about math came about because of my teacher. From the first day of class I found myself fascinated by my teachers method of teaching, her attitude and the way she treated us the students. I immediately felt a strong bond with her a bond that I had never felt before with any of my other teachers.
There was something about Ms. Smith that allowed me to put aside my bases about math and for once in my life look at the subject with a more objective approach.
My best friend was also in the same math class that I was in but much to my surprise she on the other hand hated math class. Her dislike of math class was solely based on the fact that she didn't like our math teacher. She thought that our math teacher was a horrible teacher who couldn't teach and her attitude problems. It was quit astonishing how I could only concentrate on Ms. Smith's positive attributes while my best friend was only able to the negative things of our teacher. Now that I think back I realize that our grade eighth teacher had both the positive and negative attributes. The only reason why my best friend and I had two very different opinions about her personality was because of the way we perceived her.
Likewise in the book "Lives of girls and women" Munro presents characters in an ambivalent way because it's for more realistic. The three ambivalent characters that I want to talk about are Uncle Bill, Uncle Benny and Naomi.
The first ambivalent character that I found was Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill was generous to Ada and Del on her visit, but had a corrupt past and present. He was Ada's younger brother who she hated and she always said that: "He was evil, bloated, cruel. A cruel fat boy, he fed firecrackers to cats. He tied up a toad and chopped it to pieces. He drowned my kitten, in the cow trough, through he afterwards denied it. Also he used to caught me and tied me up in the barn and tortured me." (Munro, p. 84) Del hadn't seen her Uncle since she was so young, but one day when they were still living in Jubilee, while Del was shoveling, she saw a stranger came out of the car right towards her, "He kissed me on the cheek. A sweetish sour masculine smell; shaving lotion, uneasy stomach, clean starched shirt and some secret hairy foulness." (Munro, p. 90) He introduced himself as Uncle Bill to Del, and he was really her mom's American brother, meanwhile the door opened on the other side of the car and a tall lady got out, and Uncle Bill introduced her as his new wife, she was so young and perfect. Uncle was corrupted in that he "bought" Nile - his wife - a woman much younger than himself by buying her jewelry and Jews. Ada believed that Nile didn't care about Uncle Benny and she believed that, "She married him just for a meal ticket." (Munro, p.100) After a while Uncle Bill left the house for the grocery shopping with Del. He bought so many things such as coffee, canned fruit, pudding mixes, macaroni dinners, figs, cheese, dates, powders, tinned oysters and so many other stuffs, and that wasn't all, he also stopped at the pastry shop and bought lots of things from there too. At this point Del was afraid to look at anything, in fear that he would buy it. She thought to her self, "I saw now that too much really might be too much. Even Owen might in the end have been depressed by this idiot largesse, which threw the whole known system of rewards and delights out of kilter." (Munro, p. 94) Some days later Ada burst out to Del in tears and said that Uncle Bill was dying and that he left them 300 dollars in his will.
The second character, which had an ambivalent characteristic, was Uncle Benny, he was a kind and caring person but he was also a limited person. Uncle Benny, who wasn't Dels' Uncle or in any way related to the characters, offers a metaphor for the structural and thematic organization of the novel. Benny's world, his home, was awash with trivial everyday objects such as, a wealth of wreckage, a whole rich dark, rotting mess of carpets, linoleum, parts of furniture, tools and etc. But meanwhile he was such a kind person, he took Del and his brother Owen along the Wawanash river for fishing, but to his way of thinking the river and the bush and the whole Grenoch Swamp more or less belonged to him, because he knew them, better than anybody else did.
Also Uncle Benny's world was really wild and strange like the girl he married through answering a newspaper advertisement and his account of his unsuccessful trip from Jubilee to Toronto to find her when she unpredictably left him and he insisted that he will recognize the ways without using a map, "I figured instead of runnin all over the place tryin' to find a map I would be better off just askin' people to direct me how to get there, seein' I already had the address." (Munro p. 27) But unfortunately he ended up sleeping in the car, pulled off the road and coming back cause he couldn't find her.
The third character of this book with ambivalent characteristics was Naomi. Naomi was a good friend to Del and included her in activities but she was also manipulative indecisive.
For instance Del really enjoyed going to library everyday after school but it was exactly opposite with Naomi; so many books weighed on her, making her feel oppressed and suspicious. So Del always said that: "To keep Naomi quite, while I looked at books, I would find her something to read that she would never have believed could be in books at all." (Munro, p. 130) Although she was a really good friend but she was so manipulative and she always tricked Del who revealed that she like Dale. For example, once that they were supposed to choose different students for being their partners, they both chose different people, and Naomi was so manipulative about that and meanwhile anxious about Del's feelings toward her group member.
One of the other negative characteristics of Naomi was that she was so decisive and the reason for that was she got married mainly because she was pregnant and had saved up household goods.
In the novel of "Lives of girls and women" Uncle Bill, Uncle Benny and Naomi were three characters who encompass ambivalent characteristics. Alice Munro used these characters to illustrate how people have both positive and negative attitudes in their personality and it is because of these different characteristics that each person is unique.
Uncle Bill the first character that was analyzed as a very generous and charitable person in the novel, however he was also a person with a dull and corrupt past. Uncle Benny on the other hand was a kind and caring person but very limited. The third character was Naomi who was a good and true friend, while at the same time she was fully capable of being manipulator.
The above characters illustrate Alice Munro's portrayal of ambivalent characters.