Study Guide

Passion Quotes

  • Change

    She had not been in that part of the country for many years, and of course there had been changes. (1)

    That "of course" seems important. Not only does it establish a narrative tone, it suggests that change is inevitable, unavoidable, unconstitutional (okay, maybe not unconstitutional, but you get the idea). This will be an important theme throughout the story. 

    </em>The Woodses' house. She had always remembered it as having eight doors, but it seemed there were only four. (3)

    Right from the start we are introduced to the story's setting in the context of how it has changed. In this quote, the way Grace remembers the Woodses' house does not match up with how it actually appears, revealing a level of uncertainty and unreliability of Grace's memories. How does the unreliability of memory affect our perception of change? To what extent can we be certain of the truth of Grace's memories from that summer long ago if we are so quickly reminded that memories are not always accurate? 

    To find something so diminished…might be less hurtful in the long run. (7)

    Why might it be better for Grace to not find the Traverses' summer house just as she remembers it? This quote hints at a certain comfort we find in the inevitability of change—a sentiment that is important to keep in mind while reading this story. We might not always like change, but we probably wouldn't want things to always stay the same either. 

    </em>And what if you find it gone altogether? You make a fuss. If anybody has come along to listen to you, you bewail the loss. (8)

    Munro does an awesome job at being real. Grace might certainly feel sad or disappointed to find the Traverses' house gone, but there is also some level of relief she might feel in finding the Traverses' house is no longer there. Sure, Grace might feel sadness, and she will express it if she feels it, but that's not all she'll feel. It's moments like these that help flesh out Munro's characters to make them so believable.

    Mr. Travers, when he referred to this time in her life before he met her, spoke of it as a time of hardship almost like penal servitude… (9)

    Although Mrs. Travers thinks of it differently, Mr. Travers has a negative view of his wife's previous marriage. How do our emotions and attachments influence our perceptions of how things have changed?

    </em>Grace didn't want to think ahead at all. She wanted life to continue just as it was now. (33)

    Ah, the fleeting beauty of youth, a time when everything seems new and exhilarating—until it's not. At the start of Grace's reflections about that summer long ago, she remembers the feeling of never wanting anything to change. But as the story continues and tragedy strikes, we wonder if she felt the same way at the end of the story. The final line, about how the check was enough to guarantee her a start in life, suggests that she might have been ready for some changes. Aside from experiencing personal tragedies, how else are we discouraged from being satisfied with life "just as it is now"?

    She was too dismayed by the change in Mrs. Travers, by what looked like an increase in bulk, a stiffness in all her movements…and a faint crust showing at the corners of her mouth, like sugar. (181)

    It's as if up until this point, Grace has only seen Mrs. Travers with a mask, and in this scene the mask is off. This is an important moment for Grace, when she realizes the woman she looks up to so much is only human, flaws and imperfections and all. Moments like these are an important part of growing up—we all experience something like this in one way or another, whether it's with our parents, friends, or mentors. 

    And now in the doorway it seemed that she could see her uncle…looking out at her…as if she had promised to go home and then she had forgotten about it, and in all this time he should have died but he hadn't. (252)

    Maybe one of the hardest parts about getting older is feeling guilty about leaving home. This quote touches on yet another challenging aspect of growing up, and serves to make "Passion" that much more relatable. In a story that largely deals with the challenges we face moving forward with our lives, Munro takes a minute to focus on the other sorts of challenges we face in looking back. It's a bit remarkable Munro was able to cover so much ground in this story, but then again, it's not like she was given the Nobel Prize for nothing.

    She saw him now in circumstances that let him come into his own. (314)

    At this point it seems there has been some sort of reversal in how Grace perceives Mr. Travers and how she sees Mrs. Travers. There's more to everyone than meets the eye—and it's only a matter of time until our initial perception of them begins to change. 

  • Gender/Women and Femininity

    She hated Elizabeth Taylor in that movie, she hated spoiled rich girls of whom nothing was ever asked but that they wheedle and demand. (18)

    If you were to ask us, we'd say Grace felt a little stifled by the expectations society placed on her simply because she was a female, and it sounds like she saw the same thing happening to ol' Liz Taylor in this movie—albeit with little resistance from Taylor's character. Do movies (especially romantic comedies) still present the kind of female character that Grace professes to hate? Why might that be the case? 

    </em>It was rage. And not because she couldn't shop like that or dress like that. It was because that was what girls were supposed to be like. (19)

    What are girls "supposed to be like"—at least according to movies like Father of the Bride? We wonder what Grace would think of some of the movies we see today—would they still inspire the same kind of rage? Or have her passions been pushed behind the washtub with age? Also, we never see her outwardly express this inner rage she feels. Why might this be the case? 

    That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with. (19)

    It's interesting that Grace rails against this idea, yet she once had a fantasy in which a handsome Prince Charming figure comes into her life and falls in love with her. Maybe those stories are impossible to ignore.

    </em>There was a discrepancy…between the way she presented herself and the way she wanted to be judged. (22)

    How does Grace want to be judged? How much of a factor is physical appearance in how people judge us?

    </em>These subjects were considered particularly hard for girls. (27)

    This stigma—that boys are better suited to study science and math—still seems to exist today. This goes to show that even though some of the gender roles and expectations that we see in this story may come off as dated or old-fashioned, there are several that still exist today. Maybe change doesn't always happen as quickly as we'd like. 

    </em>Like her figure, like her muumuus, it showed her independence. (35)

    Maybe Mrs. Travers doesn't feel the same way about these signs of independence that Grace has attached to her. Who ever thought muumuus would be so admirable? 

  • Sexuality

    Grace always remembered what she was wearing on that night. A dark-blue ballerina skirt, a white blouse, through whose eyelet frills you could see the tops of her breasts. (22)

    It's interesting that Grace remembers this, but other things—like her parking sessions with Maury—are hazy. We guess our own memory does a good job at reminding us of the moments we found to be most significant in our pasts—like <em>super </em>cute outfits. 

    This was the thing that had not happened. In Maury's car, or out on the grass under the stars, she was willing. And Maury was ready, but not willing. (66) 

    Maury and Grace's expectations of who the other person is might prevent them from having sex. Or maybe they were both just awkward and inexperienced. Or all of the above. 

    </em>She believed that her show of eagerness must be leading to the pleasures she knew about…she felt it was up to Maury to take over. (66)

    In this case it seems both Maury and Grace are kept from fulfilling their desires by gender expectations. The man is supposed to lead, and the woman is supposed to follow. But maybe it doesn't necessarily <em>need </em>to be that way. Either way, the discomfort between these two during their sexual encounters makes us think they might not be a match made in heaven.

    </em>What she remembers is…hardly distinguishable from the idea, her fantasies at that time, of what sex should be like…an airy surrender, flesh nothing now but a stream of desire. (183)

    This passage's tone suggests a kind of yearning for those fantasies from a younger age. Or maybe "yearning" is the wrong word. It's more of a, "Boy was I stupid to think that" kind of tone. Hey, we've all got to learn somehow. 

    He picked up the hand that was not holding the Coke bottle, pressed the palm of it to his mouth, gave it a lick, and let it drop. (200)

    This is such a strange and memorable action. How does it affect your reading of the story? Would your reading be different if Neil did something more benign, like lean over and kiss Grace on the cheek?

  • Memory and The Past

    Mightn't a feeling of relief pass over you, of old confusions or obligations wiped away? (161)

    Does the narrator lean toward some sort of moral lesson by asking this question? This quote gives us a pretty big hint as to why Grace has been drawn back to the Ottawa Valley after so many years away. 

    Grace's memories of these parking sessions…proved to be much hazier than her memories of sitting at the Traverses' round dining table. (34)

    Poor Maury, his family's dinner conversations were more memorable to Grace than their steamy moments in his car. It would be interesting to hear from Maury as an old man—how he remembers that summer and the time he spent with Grace, and whether or not he recalls those late night parking sessions either. 

    Even in some of those details she must have been wrong. (170)

    Maybe when we're in love, or falling in love, we interpret details in a certain way to better suit our feelings. When we look back later, we might realize things were actually quite different than we thought they were. A lot of us might feel this way about our first boyfriend or girlfriend—you know, that "what-the-heck-was-I-thinking" feeling. 

    She hardly realized it was time to say good-bye. As a matter of fact she does not know to this day if those words were spoken. (301)

    How does the inclusion of a spoken good-bye change Grace and Neil's final moments together? How about the absence of a good-bye? It sounds like Grace has been carrying around some unfinished business with Neil all these years after that fateful night. 

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    She was not going to be able to go to college, and anyway no college course required such a full plate. Why was she doing it? Did she have any plans? (27)

    The idea that there should always be an end goal to learning implies that learning is only useful when it leads to something concrete. Do you agree with this, or is learning for the sake of learning just as valid? 

    Even the man in charge of all learning in that place did not believe that learning had to do with life. (30)

    It sounds like the high school principal might have lost his "passions" a long time ago if he thinks like this. What kind of learning is generally perceived as useful? Does learning have to do with life? 

    He would be handsome, like Maury. Passionate, like Maury. Pleasurable physical intimacies would follow. (65)

    Everything happens pretty much as Grace hopes, yet it isn't enough. She doesn't love her Prince Charming, which is an important part of the equation, and also one that is not really fleshed out in fairytales very often—a woman's own capacity to love and desire, rather than simply be rescued. 

    </em>In those days, it was enough money to insure her a start in life. (317)

    You could argue that the check is just as much a reflection of the Traverses' hopes as it is a representation of Grace's decision to keep living her life. 

  • Innocence

    It was the principal who knew the manager of the inn…He too mentioned getting a taste of life. (29)

    It sounds like the principal might have thought Grace still had a bit of growing up to do after graduating high school at age 20. "Getting a taste of life" is usually understood as a good and important thing, but what exactly does it mean? What is Grace supposed to get a taste of?

    </em>He wore bathing shoes when he went into the water. (12)

    Munro's descriptions might suggest certain characters' innocence or adultness (and by "adultness" we mean the bad kind of adultness, the crushed and boring kind that draws someone to wear sandals to swim). Contrast Mr. Travers' cautious shoe wearing with Grace's bare feet that she slices on the shell. Would Neil have died had she been a bit more responsible and worn a pair of shoes around the yard? 

    He sensed, perhaps, that it was cold. A deliberate offering which he could not understand and which did not fit in at all with his notions of her. (66)

    In the case of Maury's reluctance to initiate sex, innocence is cast in a negative light. There's a sense of exasperation with Maury's reluctance, as if it's an inability of some sort. 

    </em>Churches aren't always safe. (204)

    Besides functioning as some pretty great sexual innuendo, Grace's comment here does a lot of work to suggest a loss of innocence, or maybe a desire <em>for </em>a loss of innocence.