In life, everyone has experiences which cause them to lose sight of who they truly are. In these situations one will face challenges and discover their darkest desires and deepest temptations. In Alice Munro’s short story Child’s Play, the conflict between Verna, Marlene and Charlene is portrayed through Munro’s use of literary devices which ultimately reveals the loss of innocence experienced by the characters. This is evident in Marlene and Charlene’s life as the use of imagery exploits the drastic transformation they experience.
Similarly, foreshadowing techniques display the inner turmoil the protagonists are facing. Lastly, situational irony is used to show the characters final transition from the innocent people they were to the guilty people they have become. The narrator uses imagery to give insight on Marlene and Charlene’s characters, revealing their loss of innocence. As Marlene grows up, she begins to recognize the harsh realities of the world around her. The change is evident when she describes these changes from her own perspective, “Every year when you’re a child, you become a different person.
Generally it’s in the fall when you re-enter school, take your place in a higher grade, and leave behind the muddle of summer vacation. That’s when you register the change most on” (Munro 1). The use of imagery in this situation clearly shows how change is a crucial part of life and that it is unescapable. As one grows up, childhood fantasies begin to fade as darkness consumes the innocence of the world. Through continuous use of imagery, Munro describes the deterioration of the conflicted mental states of the protagonists. This struggle between right and wrong is seen when Marlene and Charlene decide to drown Verna.
“Verna’s head did not break from the surface… she was turning in a leisurely way, light as a jellyfish in the water. Charlene and I had our hands on her, on her rubber cap” (Munro 12). The actions of the protagonists show the battle they are facing inside. This conflict tempts them to act on their hate and disgust towards Verna, demonstrated on their struggle to decide whether to drown her or not. This struggle clouds their judgement and eventually leads them to surrender to temptations, sequentially shedding them of their innocence.
As Masters Student Elisa Vancoppernolle suggests, “Verna has done nothing to enrage the narrator but acts somewhat strangely…children are monstrously conventional, repelled at once by whatever is off center, out of whack, unmanageable” (Vancoppernolle, 47-48). Vancoppernolle uses this truth of difference to explain how the characters actions were committed out of pure hatred.
Lastly, Munro uses imagery to display how Marlene and Charlene succumb to their cruel intentions, transforming themselves into new people. This transformation is seen through the following narration: “Our eyes did not meet as the head of Verna tried to rise above the surface… like a dumpling in a stew… Charlene’s eyes were wide and gleeful as I suppose mine were too.
I don’t think we felt wicked, triumphing in our wickedness” (Munro 12). This imagery shows the cruelty demonstrated by Marlene and Charlene as a product of their transformation from innocent children to violent murderers. Both characters act as if they are not ashamed of what they have done, but rather proud. The use of imagery in Child’s Play, clearly demonstrates how the characters begin to lose their purity. Oftentimes, the situations one encounters is influenced by their environmental conditions they are exposed to.
This becomes visible in the characters Marlene and Charlene as shown through the use of foreshadowing. Munro uses foreshadowing to express an atmosphere of tension and frailty on the day Verna and the other specials arrive at camp. Marlene describes the tense surroundings by saying, “We were living in a stage set to be dismantled and with it all the friendships, enemies, rivalries that had flourished” (Munro 6). This use of foreshadowing reflects how the camp is about to fall apart. It exposes the link between the fragility of the characters and the atmosphere.
In addition, the transition of the weather from sunny to stormy represents the events that are about to unfold, symbolizing their inner rage and aggression. This change in the environment is depicted through the narration: “The clouds darkened…. In the air there was what some people called the smell of the storm. ” (Munro 7). The change in whether refers to the events that are about to occur. Furthermore, the darkening of the clouds reflects the darkness that lives inside of the protagonists, showing their drastic transition from innocence to guilt.
Critic, Charles May emphasizes how the change in environment coincides with the change inside of the girls. He suggests that at the moment the clouds darken, “Marlene and Charlene take pleasure in spying on Verna and to observe how repulsive and monstrous she is” (May, EBSCO). He reveals how it is at this moment when the camp is full of menace. Foreshadowing also shows the haunting effects that Marlene and Charlene’s actions have on those around them. The effects of their actions are seen when Marlene’s mother voices her opinion. “How sad, how awful.
There should have been supervision… the foibles of my distant futile state” (Munro 1). The confusion of her mother allows one to realize that something awful has happened. Her mother’s words suggest that although Marlene may be a child, she is capable of horrible things, forcing her to lose her innocence. For both Marlene and Charlene, it is evident that unexpected events cause them to question their true identities. The irony in Child’s Play portrays the transition from unbreakable bond between childhood friends, to eventually becomes a distant relationship.
The end of their friendship is seen when Marlene states, “I have not kept up with Charlene. I don’t even remember how we said goodbye…our parents arrived and we gave ourselves over” (Munro 7-8). The termination of the girl’s friendship is contrary to what the readers expects. The breaking of this powerful bond shows how as children grow up, they become less naive to the ways of the world. Another ironic event that occurs in the story is when Marlene discovers that Charlene is sick. Marlene describes this revelation when she says, “Charlene was in Princess Margret Hospital.
Her cancer had begun in the lungs and spread to the liver. She had only a short time to live” (Munro 9). This irony expresses that as one grows older, they are faced with many more tragedies. These experiences show how the word is not a place where everything is safe and perfect; it is broken just as Marlene and Charlene are corrupted. Finally, the irony depicts the shocking turn of events when the reader finally learns that the girls kill Verna. This discovery is portrayed by this narration: “I can imagine the unease starting to set in…That someone is missing…one of the specials…What is her name?
Verna. Is that not something out there in the water? ” (Munro 12). When the death of Verna is revealed, one can see just how much the girls have changed. Their evolution from children to violent criminals subsequently causes their loss of innocence. Journalist Leah Hager proposes that Marlene and Charlene “transgressed not simply against propriety, but against human life itself” (New York Times). Hager concludes that one may be more similar to Marlene and Charlene than they originally thought, as the loss of innocence is a challenge that each person must overcome.
Ultimately, the use of situational irony shows how the circumstances the protagonists face lead to their final loss of innocence. In conclusion the literary devices emphasize the great differences between Marlene, Charlene and Verna causing the characters to lose their innocence as they evolve into different people as their loss of innocence shapes them into their own person. The effect of the imagery, foreshadowing and situational irony causes one to question their similarity to Marlene and Charlene; desperate to escape the prison that they have created for themselves through their hatred and loathing.