Study Guide

Passion Change

By Alice Munro

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.