In Flight; Feminist Escape in James Joyce’s Dubliners and Alice Munro’s Runaway

  • Lindsey Gartner MacEwan University


The quest to “ascend through the roof and fly away to another country” (Joyce 43), in which a character can escape the entrapments of social constraints and craft a deeper sense of self, becomes a frequent narrative within James Joyce’s Dubliners and Alice Munro’s Runaway. Both short story collections represent female characters’ escapes and failed escapes. I compare the feminist quests portrayed in Joyce’s short story “Eveline” and Alice Munro’s stories “Runaway” and “Passion”, focusing on depictions of ‘escape’ and ‘quest narratives’ the various and dynamic ways in which female characters attempt to depart from crippling social expectations in search for self-knowledge and authentic identity. Escapes within Dubliners and Runaway vary, though both collections contribute to the advancement of the feminist quest narrative with focalization through female characters and representations of the imposing patriarchal restrictions that women inevitably face throughout their quests. While Dubliners offers significant representations of female escape, these narratives consistently end in paralysis, and characters fail to become emancipated from their oppressive environments. This paper will demonstrate how Munro’s collection takes the feminist quest narrative to new heights, as while not all characters have successful escapes, they attain knowledge and acquire agency through their quests.

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Copland

Department: Gender Studies