Why Half a Grapefruit?

In Alice Munro’s “Half a Grapefruit,” the fruit is an occasion around which Rose hopes to distance herself from her classmates and from her less-than-desirable West Hanratty origins. No one else had thought to mention grapefruit as breakfast fare during that somewhat ill-conceived classroom discussion.

This grapefruit anecdote, as Sarah Contreras-Wolfe points out below, is also a tool for Munro to demonstrate ways in which Rose and step-mother Flo (gingerly) negotiate their relationship.

Text by Sarah Contreras-Wolfe

Flo and Rose bond by hiding their weaknesses from one another.

Rose never talks to Flo about the grapefruit incident. Rose would not share something that would reflect poorly on herself: “Half-a-grapefruit she never got to hear about. Rose would not have told her anything in which she did not play a superior, an onlooker’s part. Pitfalls were for others, Flo and Rose agreed” (Munro 54). Munro includes the story about the half a grapefruit to demonstrate Flo and Rose’s mutual belief that personal hardships should not be discussed between the two of them, not even when it comes to Rose’s father’s illness.

When Rose is talking to Billy Pope about her father, she speaks candidly, which she would not do with Flo: “’Not if he has lung cancer,’ Rose said firmly. She had never said that before and certainly Flo had not said it” (66). When Flo is telling a story about a woman with second sight who suggested her mother eat green onions to help with her nerves, she is also direct, like Rose: “It wasn’t nerves at all it was cancer, so what good they did I don’t know:’ Flo’s voice climbed· and hurried on, embarrassed that she had let that out” (69).

What doesn’t get said in these conversations between Rose and Flo is the meat, if you will, of this story.



Munro, Alice. “Half a Grapefruit.” Who Do You Think You Are? Toronto: Penguin, 1996. 51-72. Print.

Mills, Amanda. “Whole ceramic bowls each containing a half a grapefruit free stock picture”. 2015. CC0. <a href=”http://www.public-domain-image.com/free-images/still-life/whole-ceramic-bowls-each-containing-a-half-of-a-grapefruit&#8221; title=”Whole ceramic bowls each containing a half of a grapefruit public domain image”>Whole ceramic bowls each containing a half of a grapefruit</a>