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In the short story The Shining Houses by Alice Munro, Mary is a young inquisitive mother who explores the lives of her neighbours in the community. The story follows her day on the way to a child’s birthday party, the characters in the story all have their won plan with different outcomes and motives. The central focus discussed in this text is that of Mrs. Fullerton’s house and the farm like nature of the old property, the author gives a few perspectives from the community on how to handle it. This text suggests that the impact of ambition on one’s self and on others can be a collectives strength, an individual’s persistence and sometimes an unperceived stableness.
Although the house itself is not a living thing it has a determination of its own. The first paragraph of page three speaks about the house’s self-sufficiency, unalterable layout and lack of an understandable plan yet it was “fixed, impregnable, [had] all its accumulations necessary… were there to stay” the rest of the story is about how this impacts everyone else in the community. The unperceived stableness of Mrs. Fullerton’s house is a refreshing display of luck, the house was there before the town grew, she is an elderly strange woman but of all the people Mary knows she is also the one that has her life the most sorted out (page 1, paragraph 1). The property must’ve been chaotic at first, random sets of different farming and poorly planned layouts, probably easy to get lost in it at first till you learn your way around and things stop moving. It’s important as individuals to reach a point that we stop moving everything around and agree to just let it be, whatever it may be that seems strange will become strong. By letting things fall where they may it’s easier to find our true goals that will change our lives and the lives of those around us.
For a lot of characters, the house was strange and awful, but Mary understood the security and that resulted in an ambition within herself to protect it. When everyone agreed to try to remove Mrs. Fullerton’s home Mary was persistent in her refusal to go with the crowd. She would not sign the petition despite the pressure she felt. Page seven paragraph three Mary shows how she felt to be alone in her beliefs she had hoped to be strong but instead she had offered herself up for ridicule. Every individual has felt this at some point, at the beginning it’s easy to be proud of the decisions an individual makes but once others start to know about it and the satire begins it becomes increasingly more difficult to persist.
Yet once Mary gets to the birthday party the other parents are complaining about Mrs. Fullerton’s house, the smell, the look, and how it lowers proper value of the community. Page 6 paragraph five the parents start to get a mob mentality, they were growing off each others anger. “that was their strength, proof of their adulthood, of themselves and their seriousness” they form a crowd of drunkenness and start a petition to have a lane built and destroy the house. The intent of one man created a domino effect in other’s for their zeal to have the house removed as well. This display of power illustrates how an individual’s actions can influence others. This comes in forms of peer pressure mostly, naturally everyone wants to fit in therefore most individuals find it easier to go with the crowd and fit in than to go against it and be ridiculed.
Alice Munro does an excellent job in this short story to illustrate the impact of ambition on one’s self and on others, from the house to the neighbourhood everyone has their own goal. Some goals are collective, others are individual but each creates an effect on those around them, this is where the power of intent is displayed. Ambition is contagious as the author has clearly shown, individuals can use this to their strength or it can be their downfall, by embracing the differences Alice Munro has created a beautiful yet odd short story just like Mrs. Fullerton’s house.
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