A Critique of Day of the Butterfly, a Short Story by Alice Munro

“Day of a Butterfly” by Alice Munro is about a female narrator called Helen who is looking back at a memory from back in sixth grade. In this book we have many different kinds of themes such as isolation, commitment, connection, betrayal, appearance, and friendship. Throughout this story Munro shows that we don’t always care about people until they are sick and dead. For example, Helen doesn’t care about Myra in the beginning because she is insulting her. When Myra is sick and is in the hospital Helen takes consideration on Myra and changes her perspective towards her. We see that a lot in today’s society, more with teens when they are getting bullied to the point where they cannot take it any longer. And once they have died we all talk about how they were such an amazing person, but when they are with us no one ever notices them or treats them the same as if they were gone. There are many details that emphasizes that the Saylas are outsiders in the community. The first example is given in the beginning of the text, “I do not remember when Myra Sayla came to town, though she must have been in our class at school for two or three years. I start remembering her in the last year”. This example shows that Myra was very lonely and never made any friends. She was mostly alone and didn’t mix in the society. The Saylas were also judged because of their clothes.

Myra’s clothes are mentioned, “her good dresses at school. Even in mid-winter among the plaid wool skirts and serge tunics, she glimmered sadly in sky-blue taffeta, in dusty turquoise crepe, a grown woman’s dress made over”. Helen gives Myra the broach that matched Myra’s dress and says“. I was glad she had not put it on. If someone asked her where she got it, and she told them, what would I say?” Even though Helen tried to be friends with Myra, she did not want her other friends. The reason behind this seems to be the way society thinks. Helen doesn’t want people to think that she has low living status as Myra because she is friends with her. Another example is when Myra gets bullied, “Oh, she washes it in cod-liver oil, don’t you, Myra, she washes it in cod-liver oil, can’t you smell it?’ And to tell the truth there was a smell about Myra”. Helen and her friends began to mentally bully Myra. They made fun of the way she smelled and said, “it was a rotten-sweetish smell as of bad fruit” Myra’s family owns a fruit store and she associated those negative comments because of the store. When Helen accuses her of the bad smell, she is trying to refer negativity towards not only towards Myra, but her family. “Her father sat all day on a stool by the window, with his shirt open over his swelling stomach and tufts of black hair showing around his belly button; he chewed garlic”. Helen first makes negative comment s about Myra’s father and makes comments on her mother and brother as well. “ Told you the price in a little rapping voice, daring you to challenge her and, when you do not, handed you the bag of fruit with open mockery in her eyes”. This was a rude physical comment given by Helen. She made fun of her eyes by referring “mockery” in her eyes. Helen described Myra and her brother, “children in a medieval painting, they were like small figures carved of wood, for worship or magic, with faces smooth and aged, and meekly, cryptically uncommunicative”.

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