Naivety Literary Essay

Word Count: 1398 |

Thirty-four years ago Alice Munro published a short story entitled “How I Met My Husband”. Though Munro is a highly published author, this story is as unique as the others she has written in the past. As this story progresses, the naivety of the main character and narrator, Edie, becomes apparent. This naivety is consistent throughout the entire context of “How I Met My Husband”. When portraying Edie as naïve, Munro concurred with the general sense of the word, while staying original in every way. Despite the fact that there are many other elements in this story, the tone of youthfulness and inexperience is never once lost, thus keeping naivety as one of the more powerful elements in “How I Met My Husband”.

As one goes through life it becomes apparent that one will meet many different sorts of people. These people can be divided into two categories; people who are experienced and knowledgeable with the ways of the world, and those who are not. Those who are unaware of their surroundings are, more often than not, labeled as naïve. When examining Munro’s “How I Met My Husband” it is obvious that the most naïve character is Edie. Alice Kelling also proves to be quite ignorant, and is not ranked far behind. Both characters are so smitten that they eventually become oblivious to the reality of their situations. Thus, both women are looking for love and paying in naivety. The general clueless behavior begins during the first few pages of the story. This behaviour ends only in the concluding paragraphs of Munro’s narrative.

Growing up occurs in stages. People grow at individual rates, gain different experiences at different times in their lives, and develop their own characteristics. The main character and narrator of “How I Met My Husband” is said to be fifteen years of age. Edie is unaware of her surroundings and not yet accustomed to the ways of the world. She reacts to certain situations with certain innocence when compared other females her age. “I didn’t know how to joke back then. I was too embarrassed.” (Munro 41). Edie also proves to be inexperienced when talking with members of the opposite sex. She often finds it hard to react in a suitable manner. This makes her out to be unsophisticated and naïve. “I wasn’t even old enough then to realize how out of the common it is, for a man to say something like that to a woman, or somebody he is treating like a woman. For a man to say a world like beautiful. I wasn’t old enough to realize or to say anything back, or in fact to do anything but wish he would go away. Not that I didn’t like him, but just that it upset me so, having him look at me, and me trying to think of something to say.” (Munro 42). It is duly noted that Edie herself comments on her inability to respond in the proper fashion. Naivety is indeed one flaw that Edie comprises and her infatuation with Chris makes it even more palpable. “My heart was knocking away, my tongue was dried up. I had to say something. But I couldn’t. My throat was closed and I was like a deaf-and-dumb.” (Munro 43). Although Edie is an obvious example when interpreting the naivety evident in “How I Met My Husband” Alice Kelling is another instance where lack of sophistication and an excess of infatuation are apparent.

One is able to be simple-minded, sincere, and untaught no matter what their age. Age is just a number. However, in most cases, wisdom and knowledge of the world surrounding oneself generally increases with their age. Alice Kelling has “nothing in the least pretty or even young-looking about her” (Munro 45), and is “from the city, or educated, or both.” (Munro 45). Despite the fact that Edie concluded Alice was from the city and/or educated, Alice is just as naïve as Edie. This change in character most likely brought about by her passion for Chris. This fixation leads her to make assumptions about Edie and overlook Chris’ behaviour towards her. Though they are engaged Chris makes it plain that he is no longer comfortable with the idea of marriage. Due to Alice’s enthusiasm regarding their relationship she takes no notice of any differences and continues with Chris as if nothing has ever changed. “All that happened was that Chris got out of the car on one side and she got out on the other and they walked off separately- him towards the fairgrounds and her towards the house.” (Munro 47). Edie mentions in the midst of her account that she often “lay and wondered” (Munro 47). Edie often speculated what it would be like to be in the company of a boy because of her lack of experience. Edie develops feelings for Chris and remains as clueless as ever whilst she envisions what their relationship would be like. “I got back in bed and imagined about me coming home with him, not like that.” (Munro 47). As the story progresses, both Alice and Edie become more and more obsessed with the idea of finding love with Chris and developing a perfect relationship with him. This causes both women to do things they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances.

The conclusion of Munro’s “How I Met My Husband” consists of the more prominent features of naivety. Edie becomes increasingly infatuated with Chris Watters and is so natural, instinctive, and trusting that she accepts an invitation from Mr. Watters to spend time together. While Edie knows that what she was doing was wrong, in her eyes it was the way things were supposed to be. The fact that Chris was engaged meant nothing to Edie at the time because she was so hopeful to find love, she would do what ever was necessary to find it, even if it meant appearing naïve and unschooled to anyone and everyone around her. “He put the cake away carefully and sat beside me and started those little kisses, so soft, I can’t ever let myself think about them, such kindness in his face and lovely kisses, all over my eyelids and neck and ears, all over then me kissing back as well as I could.” (Munro 49). Edie was so convinced that everything with Mr. Watters was going to work out; she sincerely believed every word that came out of his mouth. Especially when he said that he “wouldn’t do you [Edie] any harm for the world.” (Munro 49) and was “going to write you [Edie] a letter. I’ll tell you where I am and maybe you can come and see me.” (Munro 49). Just as before, Edie became oblivious to her surroundings “as for me, I put it all out of my mind like a bad dream and concentrated on waiting for my letter.” (Munro 52), and focused on finding true love with Chris. As Edie matured however, she realized that “no letter was ever going to come” (Munro 53), and thus began Edie’s transition from an unschooled teenager, drowning in naivety, to an experienced woman. As mentioned previously, Edie wasn’t the only one who was affected by Chris Watters. Alice Kelling often had her judgment impaired by her love for Chris and found herself making accusations involving Edie. “I knew by the look of her as soon as I saw her. We get them at the hospital all the time.” (Munro 50). Although the accusations made by Alice were untrue, Edie was unable to defend herself, thinking that intimate meant the degree of kissing she chose to partake in with Mr. Watters, again proving how naïve she truly was. “ ‘You see. Some of them are that ignorant,’ Loretta Bird said.” (Munro 51). Even after the whole scene, Edie was left wondering about the situation and “didn’t figure out till years later the extent of what I had been saved from.” (Munro 52). Throughout the entire context of “How I Met My Husband”, naivety was evident. Most of the characters in this story were naïve to a certain degree, but it was most palpable in Edie and Alice.

Both Edie and Alice become so besotted that they eventually become unconscious to the actuality of their situations. Consequently, both women are looking for love and paying in naivety. Regardless of the other fundamentals in this story, the childlike sentiment is never lost, therefore keeping naivety as one of the more dominant elements in “How I Met My Husband”. As this story progresses so does the level of naivety, fully detectable by the reader. This aids in setting this short story apart from other works of fiction. Alice Munro wrote a wonderful piece of literature thirty-four years ago entitled “How I Met My Husband”. Enjoyed as it was in 1974, it has become increasingly well liked throughout the years, and withstands the test of time as it is still surprising readers with the clever use of sentiment.

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