LITERATURE: Munro’s Labor Day Dinner – Revealing a Character’s State of Mind

"And nobody does it better,
makes me feel sad for the rest…"
  (Carly Simon)

Again, Munro's just tops with creating a rounded character that evokes empathy. Here, a husband and wife (Roberta) are going to a friend's for dinner and they've been fighting for a couple days and are in the middle of a polite but cold war. Before they've left, George has told her "Your armpits are flabby," when she asked him why he didn't like what she'd planned to wear.

Munro gives us some of her thoughts:

Flabby armpits–how can you exercise the armits? What is to be done? Now the payment is due, and what for? For vanity Hardly even for that. Just for having those pleasing surfaces once, and letting them speak for you; just for allowing an arrangement of hair and shoulders and breasts to have its effect. You don't stop in time, don't know what to do instead; you lay yourself open to humiliation. So thinks Roberta, with self-pity–what she knows to be self-pity–rising and sloshing around in her like bitter bile.

She must get away, live alone, wear sleeves. (p. 137)

The beauty here is the conflicting emotions. Roberta is well aware that she needn't try so hard to please him, that she needs to learn to be comfortable with herself and her own identity. She "must get away, live alone" she says.  And then adds, "wear sleeves." We know this feeling, we know that she's trapped.

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