Things change. Sound familiar? It's one of those ideas we see and hear so often that it can sometimes lose its meaning. But "Passion" is all about recognizing how things change. For instance, things get old. Houses crumble, people get rickety, relationships and memories fade. Change can perceived as both positive and negative, and it's an important and inevitable aspect of being alive.
People don't change.
It's easy to confuse gender with sex ("sex" as in biological identity). Gender seems to have more of a social or cultural meaning. And the effect of social/cultural definitions of gender is a big concern throughout Alice Munro's work, particularly in "Passion," in which part of that depressing "pushing our passion behind the washtubs" business probably has something to do with feeling all weighed down by gender expectations.
Gender roles limit our individuality.
Gender roles do not affect our sense of individuality; it's always up to us to be who we want to be.
It's big. It's complicated! It's sexuality—a word that gets thrown around in order to describe both sexual preference and a person's capacity for sexual feelings. It's a subject that can be further complicated with passion, and in Munro's story we see characters that seem to have lost the connection between passion and sexuality, characters that desire that connection, and characters that seem in the process of losing it.
Grace realizes her capacity for sexuality during the drive with Neil.
Expectations about sexuality lead to disappointment.
You could argue that "Passion" is primarily about an old woman trying to reconstruct her past, which is an activity we all engage in. We often talk about nostalgia and find ways to create it. It can make us think about certain TV shows or movies, not because we actually enjoy them, but because they give us that little nostalgia buzz, that feeling like we're trying to reconnect with something that's been lost.
Grace returns to the Ottawa Valley in an effort to relive the past.
Trying to relive the past is pointless.
Dreams, hopes, and plans seem to swirl in and out and amid everything that happens in "Passion." Grace dreams about romance and has plans to someday do something that doesn't involve caning chairs. Mrs. Travers once dreamed of doing something that didn't involve business school, but she went to business school. Maury also dreams of romance, but his love for Grace is unrequited. And Neil drinks to distract himself from the possibility that there's no point to dreams, hopes, and plans. It's all very messy, but Munro tackles it head on in all its ambiguous and sometimes-disappointing glory.
Dreaming, hoping, or planning is what gives us motivation to do stuff. We couldn't live without doing it.
Dreaming, hoping, or planning sets us up for disappointment.
Warm nostalgic glows, summer vacation, first love, teddy bears, and sleepovers—we all tend to agree these things fall into the "nice" category. A lot of that may have to do with an idea that these things are innocent, or that they are most often associated with childhood. But for all our cheerleading, we often have a weird relationship to innocence. Sometimes it gets sexualized (like with schoolgirl uniforms.). We celebrate it but also expect it to stop at a certain age. Being too innocent or childlike as an adult can draw suspicion, but all the while, the people who feel suspicious of all that childlike innocence probably sometimes get nostalgic about childhood and how it seems like all that innocence has slipped away. You can see some of this confusion around innocence at play in "Passion." For Grace, losing innocence means coming of age, and don't we tend to see that as a good thing? But coming of age means becoming an adult and losing a lot of the joy of being a kid. So what's Grace supposed to do? All she can do is keep getting older, and all we know is thinking about all of this leads to a lot of thought knots.
The Thanksgiving drive with Neil is an allegory for Grace's coming of age.
Grace is still innocent at the end of the story.