Literary Analysis Essay Sample: The Themes in "Gravel" by Alice Munro

Published: 2022-03-23
Literary Analysis Essay Sample: The Themes in "Gravel" by Alice Munro
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 860 words
8 min read

The author used various themes to display the role of different characters, the plot, point of view, and other stylistic devices. Therefore the essay shall focus on the central themes which include parenthood, happiness, and betrayal.

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The story started with the separation of parents as the mother had become pregnant from cheating with her co-worker. The mother moved out with her two daughters, but due to poor parenthood her eldest daughter (Carol) drowned in a gravel pit with water and died. The eldest daughter was devastated by the breakup of their initial family. Also, in the new one, her mother and Neal seemed to pursue their happiness and not much concern for them (Carol and her sister) which was heartbreaking. During winter her mother led them into making a snowman, the narrator recall they decided to name it Neal, and surprise him when he arrived home. Shortly after Neal arrived in his car and the narrator ran towards him that she was almost ran-on, which made him so angry at her. She said that was one in a few moment the narrator saw him acting like a father. The incident confirms that Neal who was supposed to be a father-figure had failed terribly in his mandate as a parent. Furthermore when Carol was drowning her mother was not around, and Neal, her stepfather, was there but was "stoned" hence he could not be useful. It was very ironical that a wolf appeared while hunting for food for her cubs, but a human mother was careless enough which contributed to her daughter's death. The animals' seemed to be more responsible than human beings in this context, which meant that the moral decay in the society was on the peak. The story revealed a failed parenthood where children are left to suffer as parent focused on their concerns.


After the revelation to her husband that she was pregnant for Neal, the narrator's mother packed from her home and set to live with her lover in the trailer he had found in the country. It was very ironic to leave a house where she had a bedroom with a closet and shoe rack areas, to live in a trailer. However, it was shocking to note that she was not happy in that house as she claimed that for once she had felt alive again after a long time (Munro para 8). These words reveal a feeling of joy that she had found in the small space she was sharing with Neal and her two daughters. It is also astonishing that she did not consider that Neal did not have a stable career, unlike her husband who provided for the family through his insurance salesmanship. Similarly, their dog, Blitzee, was happy as exhibited by her constant barking along the road as they were travelling to Neal's place. Blitzee was delighted with their new place according to the narrator's mother's comment which she agreed (Munro para 3). Blitzee enjoyed hunting for herself, for instance, a groundhog, a situation that Carol considered unpleasant as she was her dog's provider. Neal told her that animals like dogs have a nature for fending for themselves and that it was enjoying the adventure. Her mother supported Neal's explanation, and that case was settled at the moment. Back at their family home, Carol used to get food for her dog, and now in the new environment, she felt as if Blitzee did not need her support and nurturing anymore.


The narrator introduced a scene that revealed her parents had been married in a wedding, as her mother was packing she left her wedding ring and gown on the dresser. When she told her husband that the pregnancy was Neal's, he was so heartbroken by the imagination of how his wife had betrayed their marriage (Munro para 8). Her husband wept for a long-time and finally decided to go to work to neutralize his emotions over the incidence. Similarly, the narrator's mother acknowledged that she too wept, but she was having a better moment with Neal than she did with her marital husband. She felt guilty for betraying their marriage, but her primary focus was the joy and the freedom that Neal allowed her to experience. Hence, that is why she was willing to move from a house to a trailer with a man whose future without a clear life-plan. Additionally, the narrator revealed that she did not go to kindergarten because her mother did not have a car. However, she confessed that her mum, Carol, and Blitzee were enough to make her happy. These incidences show that happiness is created by god relationships and not the material things.

In conclusion, the author used the themes to show the role that different characters, stylistic devices, the point of view and other elements of literature played out in the short story. The major themes that were revealed include, betrayal, happiness, and parenthood. The concluding quotes of the author reflect the idea of happiness by stating that the circumstances should not impede a happy life.

Work cited

Munro, Alice. "Gravel." The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017,

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Literary Analysis Essay Sample: The Themes in "Gravel" by Alice Munro. (2022, Mar 23). Retrieved from

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