A Comparison Between “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” and “Away From Her”

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” is a poignant short story by Canadian writer and 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Alice Munro that is a typical small-town tale. It delves into the manner in which spouses react to aging by taking a trip through the lives of Fiona and Grant. They both begin their relationship as young individuals with Fiona taking the initiative and proposing to Grant. The story then shifts to a period when the couple was now in their old age and living in an assisted-living facility at Meadowlake as Fiona has dementia. It is a succinct description of the desperation that sets in when, after fifty years of marriage, realizes that she cannot identify simple kitchen contents or even find her way home. The author now juxtaposes what occurred in the past with what is happening presently in a bid to contrast Fiona’s demeanor at a time when she cannot recognize her husband (Zehelein & E.-S, 2014, p. 38). On the other hand, “Away From Her,” is a motion picture adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story about a marriage that seems to be drifting away from a wife. It serves a sympathetic depiction of the husband’s futile efforts does deal with a complex condition that completely overwhelms him (Basting, 2009, p.66). The film was written and directed by Sarah Polley who transformed the short story’s ability to evoke dialogue and mental images into a moving work of visual perception. Here is an effort to balance her cast members with the original material. In this evaluative essay, I will provide an in-depth comparison between “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” and the film “Away From Her” and whether it stands up to the short story.

The plot in the original shorts story revolves around Grants and Fiona’s marriage that has lasted for forty-five years. It is at this moment that Fiona starts showing clear sights of a memory loss: “The new notes were different. Stuck onto the kitchen drawers—Cutlery, Dish-towels, Knives. Couldn’t she just open the drawers and see what was inside?” (Munro & OverDrive, Inc, 2010, p. 58)The couple decides that it is best if they move to a nursing home where they can access the help needed. Fiona is particularly in a difficult position since her husband is not allowed to visit her for the first thirty days and it is soon clear that she is having trouble recollecting her marriage. Her memory is deteriorating, and this is when she develops an attachment Aubrey, a resident of the nursing home. The story soon reveals its intricacies when it becomes apparent that Aubrey was only there temporarily and soon leaves the facility. Fiona is left in a state of utter devastation and wallows in her depression. It is clear that Grant loves his wife dearly and the reason why he tracked Aubrey down and even suggested to his wife to move him. Ultimately, she forgets Aubrey and can rekindle her love for Grant. A juxtaposition of the childhood song that the short story’s title is derived from and a tale about aging reveals a disposition that is more oppressive to the subjects and less humorous. It is a downhill journey for Fiona as her memory worsens and is soon unable to identify persons who were most dear to her. Moreover, we soon learn of Grant’s promiscuity which has repeatedly occurred throughout their marriage even though he has never thought of abandoning her altogether. The author writes: “Nowhere had there been any acknowledgment that the life of a philanderer (if that was what Grant had to call himself—he who had not had half as many conquests as the man who had reproached him in his dream) involved acts of generosity, and even sacrifice” (Munro & OverDrive, Inc, 2010, p. 67). It is therefore ironical that he continually makes an effort to bring her back with her lover to put an end to her grieving at the nursing home. The couple’s youthful exuberance had faded away but given rise to a complicated situation that increasingly polarizes them.

Sarah Polley’s depiction lives up to the short story by producing an impressive film on Alzheimer’s disease. The star, Julie Christie, gives an astounding performance of a woman exhibiting the early signs of dementia. One of the most compelling scenes in the movie features Fiona in the kitchen where she seems to be forgetting simple names and now cannot put pots in the arrangement in the kitchen. It is soon apparent that the couple is in a difficult marriage where Fiona still has memories of occasions where her husband would have multiple affairs with young girls in the university where he was teaching. She is, in a way, glad that she can no longer conjure up these painful memories and live happily in a strange state of oblivion. The movie religiously follows the script, and the two find themselves in a nursing home where Fiona was to receive the appropriate care. The doctor is quick to remind Grant that her uxorious crush is merely a natural response to loyalty and attention which would fade away with time. He soon realizes that this is not the case and notices that his wife’s love for Aubrey keeps on growing by the day. Grant is unhappy with this sudden turn of events and cannot fathom why it is even occurring in the first place. He has now been relegated to a voyeur whenever he comes to visit Fiona and, at some point, thinks that she is putting up an act with the sole intention of punishing him for his checkered past. Furthermore, Grants character in the movie (Gordon Pinsent) elucidates a gruff blankness after coming to terms with this reality and becomes quite impassive. He even develops a leonine attribute that is mostly associated with persons who have Alzheimer’s with some individuals also mistaking him for a patient at the institution. Fiona seems happy with her new condition as it has liberated her from her memories and habits associated with everyday life.

In conclusion, the short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” is an exploration of how people can parley their long-term commitments together with how they view themselves after failing to uphold them. It features ordinary people drifting through life but offers an extraordinary tale. Munro is known best for her precise nature and creating unflinching characters that seek reassure the reader through the little judgment that she passes on them. Most readers would learn a crucial life lesson after embracing this “ordinary” story. Sarah Polley’s adaptation that led to the production of “Away From Her” lives up to the short story through creating a heartwarming moving movie that offers a raw look into losing one’s spouse. Fiona’s character is merely impeccable as she is thoughtful and eloquent in describing how it feels like to lose her memory. The screenplay is also a vital conduit in raising awareness of Alzheimer’s which can be very educational for individuals who do not have sufficient knowledge about the condition and how it affects families.

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