She finds herself in a strange entanglement with her husbands ex-lover, the friendly man, and the young woman who wants “to hold him fast in a re-enactment of the Old Scottish ballad that re-echoes throughout the story” (Waterston, 262). However, neither one of these women is able to hold the man fast; “I cant make two women happy,” he says (Munro, 103).
The whole idea of “holding someone fast” resonates in different ways throughout the story. Hazel was not able to hold her husband fast and she must come to terms with the fact that she, in some ways, abandoned him before he died — not “striving toward him” in the past or in the present in memory (Munro, 104).
The song sang in the story is about a young man who is captured by fairies and wants more than anything to go back to human life. The young man meets a girl whom he likes, but he cant do anything as a prisoner of the fairies. The only way for the young man to be free of the fairies is if someone who loves him embraces him, holds him tightly as the fairies work their magic on him — changing him into horrible creatures one after another.
If this special girl can hold on to him while not letting the horror of the situation affect her, so never losing her trust in their love, the fairies will let them go after they exhaust all of their tricks. The song says, “Hold me fast, dont let me pass” — and the girl is able to do exactly that, freeing the young man from the fairy prison. Hazel, however, is not as strong when it comes to holding her late present fast – even in memory.
Kakutani, Michiko. “Book of The Times; Alice Munros Stories of Changes of the Heart.” New York Times. August 19, 2010
Munro, Alice. Friend of My Youth. New York: Vintage; First Vintage Contemporaries
Edition Edition, 1991.
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell;
2nd edition, 2007.
Waterston, Margaret Elizabeth. Rapt in Plaid: Canadian Literature and Scottish Tradition..