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Red Dress is a short story written by Alice Munro. Munro is well known for her work of writing and in this case short stories. She was born in 1931 in Canada. She grew up in Wingham, Ontario where she eventually attended the University of Western Ontario. Her dominance in writing earned her various prizes and awards which complemented her good work. Red Dress is one of her many short stories written with the aim of expressing her mind. In this story, the narrator is a girl who has just reached the adolescence age where different aspects of her life keep unfolding. The short story also has other characters like Raymond Bolting and Mary Fortune who play a big part in the development of the story.

Red Dress

In Red Dress, the main character who is the narrator is an adolescent young girl. She is viewed to have many challenges that affect girls at her age and situation. The narrator joins high school and immediately the issue surrounding her first high school dance does not please her. Her life from home to school and the environment in general destroys her attitude towards dance. Her life back at home is full of catastrophe. The life is bad and she does not seem pleased about anything regarding her home.

Starting with her mother, she ruins everything in her life. She discourages her on different occasions and her words put her down mentally. This even happens in front of her friend Lonnie. The narrator goes a step farther to envying Lonnie due to the fact that she is living with her father and her dead mother is nowhere to ruin her life. Her mother is obscene in the house and she never offers anything for her to look up to (Munro, 2007). She fails to take care of herself which has a negative impact on the narrator. This and more other challenges determine the narrator’s attitude towards high school dance and other aspects of life.

Raymond Bolting is a character in the story. Munro uses him to bring out the idea of a male presence in the life of the narrator. The narrator offers a Kleenex to Raymond regardless of it being dirty. The Kleenex offered is used to symbolize the narrator’s acceptance towards the opposite sex and the awareness of adolescence. The narrator is changing physically and psychologically. She offers her Kleenex despite the fact that she has got only one. She is willing to share with someone she barely knows. The statement “but if I was to tear it in half, we’d each have something” (Munro pg 84, 2007). Here she portrays sacrifice and shows great character of sharing. Munro uses the Kleenex to symbolize the development of the narrator.

The narrator’s maturity is well described with her encounter in a cubicle in the washroom. While she’s hiding, a girl known as Mary Fortune enters and finds her there. Fortune brings up a conversation and she explains how she too hated dancing. She says “I don’t. I can’t stand it. I hate dancing” (Munro pg 81, 2007). With this, the narrator finds out that she has something in common with Fortune. She later feels different about herself and acts in a mature manner. The narrator goes ahead and even shares a cigarette with her newly made friend. They talk about many issues including about their teachers. The narrator portrays her social side through this encounter. The narrator has psychologically matured and she is able to act maturely despite challenging situations around her.

The narrator in Red Dress and her newly made friend Fortune represent two different characters. The narrator is a person who is easily influenced by the public including her peers to be specific. She is fascinated by Lonnie’s dresses and she is so keen on what others think about her. She is so eager to join the dance group but unfortunately she gets rejected. This is what destroys her attitude towards high school dance. On the other hand, Fortune, the narrator’s new friend has a different character. She is seen to undergo similar difficulties to those of the narrator but she has a positive attitude towards life. She possesses what the narrator lacks and that is self respect. She also has future dreams and goals and through her conversation with the narrator there is a lot to be learnt (Toriten, 2006).

Fortune puts a picture of how self independent she is and she is not willing to follow what other students are engaged in. The narrator learns a lot from this conversation and begins to appreciate herself. Her life encounters bring out how slowly she is developing and maturity is taking its course.


Red Dress is a story aimed at describing how people can have different characters and how different life situations can affect their lives. The author uses the main character who is the narrator to describe people who are affected by other people’s opinions. We learn that this trait is destructive. Fortune has a strong character and personality. She has her own opinions and she knows what she wants in future and in her life. It is important to have clear and set goals about life. Being social and willing to learn from others is also an important aspect of life. Fortune hates the dance because she views it as a peer driven thing with individuals who are demanding for attention. She has her standards and self respect. The narrator learns a lot from this character.


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