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Evaluative Essay On Away From Her and the Bear Came Over the Mountain
Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”, describes an unexpected, life altering episode in the lives of Grant and Fiona. This married couple, who values nothing more than each other’s company and love, is faced with the biggest challenge of their lives. This short story not only gives you an insight on Alzheimer’s disease, but also digs into the meaning of life and how to cope with the unexpected. It focuses on everyday people navigating ordinary and entreasuring lives, thus making it easy to resonate with. Alzheimer’s does not discriminate; it goes after anyone without remorse.
Grant and Fiona had been married for forty-five beautiful years. Like every other couple, they had their ups and downs, but always managed to pull through. However, the plot twist occurred, when Fiona manifested signs of memory deterioration. She began by innocently wandering off, but things quickly escalated when casual situations became scary and detrimental for her. Feeling broken and confused, they realized a nursing home was the best answer. Alzheimer’s disease is like a thief; a thief that without your knowledge comes into your home every day and steals a little piece of you. Before you know it, it has taken everything leaving you and those around you empty. This disease robbed Fiona and Grant of all intimate things and precious memories they shared.
As time progressed Fiona’s signs became more evident, and Grant could not stomach the idea of losing his wife. On several occasions he tried to convince himself that it was just Fiona, his Fiona, and that she had always been that way. Making matters worse, Fiona’s memory loss was exacerbated by flashbacks of Grant’s old years of infidelities. This not only crushed his morale, but also filled him with deep guilt and regret. His love for her was undeniable, which made it more difficult to accept that he was losing the love of his life.
He struggled with the thought of letting her go to the facility, but reminded himself that this was her decision while still having some of her memory intact. For the first 30 days Grant could not visit his wife (per company policy), allowing her to get adjusted and settled in. When those dreadful days were over, he excitedly visited Fiona. To his dismay, she had forgotten all about their marriage and even developed a strong attachment towards another resident named, Aubrey. It was towards the end of the short story that Fiona miraculously regained her memory. She was temporarily able to remember who Grant was, and although their entire forty-five years together had been erased, he did not want to be “away from her” because she was his whole world.
A new section begins with the fourth paragraph; the wind-blown, wave-crashing, youthful exuberance of the opening section had been replaced by a calmer sense of ordinary concerns (Fiona is trying to wipe away a smudge on the kitchen floor). It was clear that some time had passed between the first and second sections, but I could not help to feel a jolt of surprise when I learned that Fiona was already seventy years old. It seemed that her youth and their entire marriage had been dispensed discourteously. Although a few insignificant changes were made, the film remained true to the story. Like Munro’s drama, the film is stark, yet compelling in the manner in which Munro accurately depicts the plight of Alzheimer’s patients. The screenplay is also true in sticking to the same narrative as Munro’s story, with one small exception that I found jarring. Towards the end of the film, the nurse who had been helpful to Grant throughout his wife’s stay at the nursing home condemns his past affairs. While Grant was remorseful about it, he had managed to put it in the past. This was until his wife’s deteriorating memory began to focus past events. Kristy, the nurse, pointedly tells him that his behavior is typically male, and that maybe his life only seemed okay to him, but not to his wife. This seemed out of character for the nurse to say, given her nurturing to both, her patients and to Grant. At first, I thought these words were exactly what one would expect a “Munro character” to speak. But, this scene is not in the story. After reflecting on it and reading the story, I believe this scene states explicitly what Munro stories typically imply. In that regard, it seemed out of place, but not entirely out of context with the story. Also in the short story (Munro, 2013) it tells you about Grant’s infidelity, however in the film (Egoyan, et al., 2006) the director eludes the fact that there was infidelity in the marriage. Fiona, however, does not seem to go through much denial saying, “Don’t worry darling, I expect I’m just losing my mind” (Egoyan, et al., 2006).
In both the short story, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”, and the movie, “Away from her” the writer and producer show how as humans how we struggle in life. How we do our best to find happiness and true love, but the only sure thing for us is advancement in age. As young adults we wonder what aging will look like and as we get older we realize that everything on “the other side of the mountain” is in fact a mirage. There is nothing better on the other side expecting us, but a repeated cycle. Grant, in his will to save his true love, is able to find himself all over again. The story tells of an evolution of love under the background of aging. Love and aging interweave and crash with each other, to generate the great theme of the story; love evolves with time and it will finally defeat aging.


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