The one, practiced most scrupulously, yields ever briefer and ever more abstract or parablelike fictions; the other, of course, yields the novel or the epic. Some storytellers experiment endlessly while others, having found their voices early on, and having developed or appropriated the most pragmatic structures to contain them, are content to work in more or less the same tradition throughout their careers. When the work is good no one is likely to lament the writer's lack of interest in experimentation. When the work is very good no one is likely even to notice it.

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In Lichen, his sentiment is expanded to show that men find aging equally problematic. Munro represents bodies through idealization and fragmentation to show the humiliating effect this has on both men and women. Both Stella and David, the main characters, are middle-aged.

But it is obvious that David is struggling to accept the process. His angry, misogynistic views toward aging women are clearly shown by his attitude to the body:.

Aging is about bodies for David. David fragments the body into a list of parts and depersonalizes both men and women, turning them into mere flesh, thereby allowing them to become disposable and replaceable.

David forces Stella to consider bodies when he forces her to see the photograph of Dina. Like David, STella also chops up the bodies into parts but perhaps not for the same reason. Stella reduces the body either by transforming it into an animal or a plant or by amputation. Not much cut off just the tips of her fingers and the toes maybe. What is more noteworthy, however, is the fact that Dina is more extensively amputated than Catherine. The message is clear; the younger the lovers become, the less real they become.

He seems to take sadistic pleasure in forcing Stella to see what he views as a symbol of his power and eternal youth. He treasures the picture and memories of Dina, but part of him knows he fantasises. David is concerned for the disguises of youth to remain in place.

David wishes to appropriate youth and by doing so, gain control and power. But his male fantasy is just an illusion and he suffers because of his need to deny his own humanity. She writes, makes jam and is an active member of her community. To reinforce her own independence, Stella tells David and Catherine about a woman who weaves her own cloth.

At the end of the story, the photograph has been left to fade. The pubic hair has become lichen, the simile that Stella first used to describe it.

But this is a fantasy; Dina is no more than an image through David and of David. He is an incomplete individual, desperate for time to stop. David does this in order to gain control of a body that is aging before he is ready. His desperation means that he continually renews and starts afresh, adding nothing to his life.

He thinks he has power but he cannot stop even the photograph from fading. As it does, David is understood to lose his power.

Stella mutilates bodies to reduce them to a size she can deal with so that the pain of what David is doing does not destroy her. Independent of David, she is a busy, creative woman, adding value to the world; she produces writing, jam and vegetables. The photograph which changes appears to change because of her words; the suggestion gives power to Stella. Carrington, Ildiko, ECW Press, Toronto. Munro, Alice, Lichen in The Progress of Love pp 43 — Penguin, Toronto.

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“Lichen” Alice Munro

Stella is unsurprised, and this show-and-tell routine is familiar to her, but it is unsettling for the reader, who has not even yet gotten a sense of Catherine. Immediately, however, the reader is introduced to Stella. As David drives up, Stella steps out of the bushes, where she has been picking berries. There is nothing underneath these clothes, as far as he can see, to support or restrain any part of her. David always visits him on these annual treks as well, bringing a bottle for the old man. For all that David harshly critiques and challenges her, she remains staid and seemingly undisturbed. She knows that while Catherine is cast in the light, what appeals most to David is Dina, who exists only in the shadows.


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D avid and Stella are aging together, bitterly. This is particularly tragic for Stella. David is a rich, sickly character. As David turns the car into the lane, Stella steps out of the bushes, holding a colander full of berries. She is a short, fat, white-haired woman, wearing jeans and a dirty T-shirt. There is nothing underneath these clothes, as far as he can see, to support or restrain any part of her.

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