Munro’s Whodunnit

This past week, the class got prepared for their upcoming creative project by reading and commenting about examples of fictional letter stories. I specifically was drawn to Munro’s ‘The Wildness Station.’

Munro’s ‘The Wilderness Station’ is a short story told through letters dealing with Annie McKillop and the Herron family. In it, Simon Herron, Annie’s husband, dies in a mysterious way, and the whole story revolves around the reader hearing and witnessing all the evidence, but having to decide the true murderer for themselves. It is open ended, even going as far as saying Annie’s whole confession to murder was a figment of her imagination. Stories told through letters are unique in that they give a direct point of view of the character and provide the readers with little context of other missing letters not mentioned. In this way, the story and writer really benefits from this, as it builds suspense and intrigues the reader more with ambiguity.

One of the large questions that stuck out to me was what were some ongoing themes within the story? Because of the plot and open-ended finale, I thought that insanity and how it distorts the truth had to be one of them. Insanity is a very prevalent theme in this story. Taking place in the winter in an isolated cabin, hints of cabin fever can be seen here. If there Simon’s death was truly a murder, then the motive could also be insanity since there wasn’t any discourse in the Herron family or Annie. It happened too suddenly. This ties in with the repetition of finding the truth. Usually, when reading a story, there is a distinct problem and solution. Unlike reading a normal story, Munro immediately throws readers in and jumps between past and present letters. There isn’t even a clear solution, only more problems and obstacles to finding the truth. All of these factors are used to play up the mystery and discombobulating message of the story, if there is any.

Additionally, while I was looking into the story more, I saw someone’s analysis from a feminist perspective. In it, they described the coincidences of using Annie, the housewife and one who is made out to be going crazy, to be both a scapegoat and stereotype of a mad woman. Since this takes place during the late 1800s where women’s role and independence in society was mainly dependent on men, Annie most likely wouldn’t have support or trust from the public or from a jury. With her confessing, it would have been an short case in court and she probably would have ended up in an asylum or in prison.

With reading Munro’s writing and Halloween season upon us, I definitely feel inspired to write something similar and attempt to create my letter project to be horror-ish. My ideas from this are letters from a haunted house or perhaps somebody goes missing, and the letters are from the missing person. Regardless, I am very much looking forward to the creative writing project.

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