She has memories of “sad poverty” she wants to escape, and even though she has roots in this town, she would sever those roots and become something else.
Rose is central to the stories in this book in every way. Her point-of-view is always the one that takes control. She views herself as an outsider in Hanratty, though clearly she is not. The fact is she wants to be an outsider, and she also believes that being an outsider makes it both more possible and more acceptable for her to comment on the people she finds there, as if w=she were an anthropologist and they were only subject for study. Her role as an outsider is ironic in many ways, and while it is an assumed role, it also symbolizes the real plight of women in society, for women are always outsiders. Rose is seen to be an outsider in her own home, as when Patrick takes people through their house on tours, something Rose has been “uneasy about these tours from the start, and tagged along in silence, or made deprecating remarks which Patrick did not like” (Munro 143). The suggestion is that “far from aligning the house with female authority, the male has not simply invaded but has constructed the house as an oppressive, claustrophobic enclosure” (McGill para. 10).
Roses school years include frightening episodes and difficult situations, and her childhood is not the sort seen as bathed in idyllic innocence but is rather a rough introduction to the realities of the world, a function of living in the poor part of town. Yet, she has visions of what an idyllic childhood would be, associating these with the natural world outside the city, as represented by the pictures of birds she sees in the classroom (Munro 36). This world remains just outside her reach, though, since she can see the birds but cannot touch them, creating “lost innocent notions out of a primitive period of her life” (Munro 27). As with many things in this world, Rose knows what innocence is, but her experience in school take away her innocence so that after that, she must change the narrative to capture some of the innocence she never really had.
Playing the outsider in life, Rose gains power from taking a dispassionate view, from observing rather than participating, suggesting in some way the separation of the artist. She sees Frannie McGill being assaulted, and rather than cringing, she is curious and watches. In spite of the role she plays for herself, though, she really yearns to be part of the town where she sees her self as an outsider. She is not sure of her place in the social structure, and while she may pretend that does not matter, it does as she is seen “wanting to align herself with the towners” (Munro 41).
Rose collects narratives so she can use them for her own gain, such as the scandals she knows from school, scandals she uses to impress some and to intimidate othes. She tells Flo stories that will appeal to Flo, and in other case she uses stories to intimidate or frighten other people.
Later, when she moves in with a professor, she is exposed to a different social world quite unlike what she has known in her neighborhood or in her high school. She becomes aware of social labels and class distinctions that meant little before, and when she returns to Hanratty, she is truly the observer and now sees how crude the town really is. She puts fluorescent lights in her kitchen, a symbolic act showing that she sees Hanratty in a new light now. The people she used to kow never thought of themselves as poor, but now she sees that they are poor and that this is embarrassing and sad. She begins to depict Hanratty in a new way, and she takes on the role of a writer, which she always was inside as she observed and learned, while now she can express herself and put what she experiences on paper as a different kind of memory. This is a kind of memory that is changeable, for she can no escape the past by changing it. This in itself creates a dilemma for her, since her family and friends would not see a writer as an honorable profession, forcing her to hide her reality even as she is just discovering what it really is.
Her role as outsider now expands as she gains empowerment by learning how to play roles and how to adopt different guises in order to hide her real self. She learns from the process and more and more “wanted to fill up in that magical and releasing way, transform herself, wanted the courage and the power” (Munro 247), both available to her as she learns how to use the power she has. As an adult, she continues creating new personas for herself in order to be friendly with people she did not really like, such as many of Patricks friends. While she shows the way women often create power for themselves, she can do so only by being something and someone she is not. She plays the role of dutiful daughter when Flo is ill, but that is not really her.
Both Mrs. Bentley and Rose play against traditional female roles, and while each gains some power in this way, they only do so at the sacrifice of being themselves. The world does not allow them to be honest, and they use this in order to create their own niche for themselves.
Denham, Philip. “Narrative Technique in Sinclair Rosss
As for Me and My House. Studies in Canadian Literature (2008). July 23, 2008. http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/SCL/bin/get.cgi?directory=vol5_1/&filename=denham.htm.
Mcgill, Robert. “Where Do You Think You Are? Alice Munros Open Houses.” Mosaic, Vol. 35 (2002). July 31, 2008. http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5000644745#top.
Munro, Alice. Who Do You Think You Are?
Who Do You Think You Are? 1978. Toronto: Penguin, 1995.
Ross, Sinclair. As for Me and My House. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.