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Wild Swans Analysis

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Year 11 Short Story Unit Writing Task

How does “Wild Swans” explore the central character’s experience of adolescence?
In Alice Munro’s short narrative Wild Swans, the female adolescent narrator, Rose, travels alone on a train ride to Toronto. On the train she is sexually harassed by a minister and through Rose’s reactions to the harassment, readers are given a vivid image of how Rose experiences adolescence. Throughout the story, Rose experiences fear and confusion about growing up, prompting herx to attempt to evaluate the world through the perspectives of others, and eventually mature into a woman with the courage to display her long-suppressed concupiscence, showing evidence of a complete transition from a cygnet (baby swan) to a
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Rose is glad that the minister “[is] not going to mention God” (14), but instead the man starts to harass her, a far more grotesque action, bringing a sense of irony to the story. At this point, Rose starts to question the ethics of society, and this can be seen not just as confusion, in the context of the story, but also as a further exploration of youthful bewilderment about established values from a young age such as mutual respect and the integrity which adults are expected to uphold. Even towards the end of the story, Rose “could never understand what recommended [the minister]” when she decided to self-pollute at a later stage of her life. The lack of answers is the very reason why Rose attempts to consider multiple perspectives at once in hope for more answers, motivating her development through adolescence.

Finally, Rose develops greater self-awareness, a greater awareness of others and the ability to consider multiple perspectives, as shown by her mental consideration of the possible repercussions for accusing the minister of harassment or asking him to take his hand away. Her evidence of awareness for herself and others is demonstrated through her inability to ask the minister to take his hands away. Due to an increased awareness of others, Rose feared the other passengers would fixate their attention on her, showing her shyness in through her mental thoughts. “She shaped the words [please don’t] in her mind, tried
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