Girl power in ‘A Trip to the Coast’

Focussing particularly on stylistic tendencies in ‘A Trip to the Coast’, this article situates that story within the collection as a whole, and discusses the interests of the story and the collection in the struggles of girls and women, and of girls against women, in a world often controlled by men. The girl vs woman fights are neo-gothic in intensity, and, figuratively or otherwise, ‘to the death’. For the girl to become a free and independent person, the matriarch’s power must be broken. While there is a mythic or folktale core to this story arc, this is submerged in the absorbing physical and psychological depiction of the girl, her grandmother, and a travelling salesman, and the women’s conversational ‘wrestling’, full of feints and blocks and traps, as they strive to emerge from life’s inconsequentialities unvanquished. My article introduces some simple corpus linguistic methods for extracting, with a degree of objectivity, words and meanings that are prominent in the story text; these stylistically prominent features are then used in story interpretation. Several of the narrative preoccupations of ‘A Trip to the Coast’, which is focalised by the teenage girl, are discussed at length: body shapes and smells, conversational resistance, and uncertainty of narrative interpretation.

Keywords Alice Munro, collocation, semantic keywords, conversational conflict, girl power

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