In the short stories “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro and “Hockey Night in Canada” by Diane Schoemperlen, one encounters two couples with relationship problems. These problems result in cheating (either physical or in terms of emotional loyalty), which is the consequence of dissatisfaction with regulated life, unfulfilled emotional needs, and also of physical lust. When one compares the two couples, several parallels can be drawn but also some differences can be established. In both relationships, Grant and Fiona’s as well as in Ted and Violet’s, those who commit real cheating are the men.
Grant and Ted both cheat on their spouses with younger women (except that Grant’s Jacqui is about the same age as Fiona, but she is only one among many), which indicates that one of the reasons for infidelity is physical lust. Even though Grant first says that when “meeting with a new woman[,] [t]he feeling was not precisely sexual,” he admits that “[l]ater, when the meetings had become routine, that was all it was.
” The main difference between Grant and Ted is that Grant cheats on Fiona with several women, whereas Ted cheats on Violet only with one. Grant was unfaithful to Fiona due to his restlessness and boredom with everyday life.
Not that he did not love her – “[h]e had never stopped making love to Fiona [… ][,] had not stayed away from her for a single night,” had never intended to leave her – only the other women “brought into his office, into his regulated, satisfactory life, the great surprising bloom of their mature female compliance, their tremulous hope of approval. ” In contrast, Ted cheats on his wife because he is neglected by Violet, since she has never really loved him, thinking “Sonny was [her] own true love. ” As far as Fiona and Violet are concerned, they are not as innocent either.
They both cheat on their husbands in terms of emotional fidelity – Fiona with Aubrey and Violet with Sonny. But one can understand Fiona, since due to Alzheimer’s she does not even know she is married to Grant when she gets “these attachments” to Aubrey. She can perceive Grant merely “as some persistent visitor who [takes] a special interest in her. ” For Violet, the story is quite different. Although she was separated from Sonny against her will, him having been “shipped [… ] off to agricultural school in Winnipeg,” she still knows she is not able to love anybody as much as Sonny.
Thus, she should not have married Ted, especially because she “didn’t tell [him] about Sonny until long they were married. ” If she told him in advance, he could at least have chosen whether he really wanted to marry a woman who could never truly love him. Grant and Ted can also be compared in terms of their relationships with Marian and Rita. In these two women they both find comfort for being neglected by their wives. Grant is overlooked due to Fiona’s illness and her consequential attachment to Aubrey. Therefore, he finds comfort in Marian, Aubrey’s wife, who is in the same situation.
In her, he finds “practicality. ” He is attracted by “the practical sensuality of her cat’s tongue [and] [h]er gemstone eyes,” but there is no evidence whether this relationship ever became sexual. On the contrary, Ted’s relationship with Rita is also sexual, which is implied in the passage when Ted’s daughter finds him and Rita “alone in the house [… ][,] drinking rum at the table, with the record player turned up loud in the living room,” and “[t]here was something funny about Rita’s eyes when she looked up at [her] [… ], a lazy softness, a shining. They find comfort in each other due to their common feeling of being lonely – Ted because Violet never really loved him and Rita because her husband hanged himself and his family blamed her for this and isolated her.
In “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” and “Hockey Night in Canada”, the men and the women do not stay faithful to only one person. Either boredom with the monotonous life, spiritual loneliness, illness or physical lust drives them to the cheating of their spouses. The difference that derives from both stories is that the women cheat only in terms of emotional faithfulness, while the men cheat also physically.