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Alice Munro: Ethical Issues

Syllabus: Applications of Ethics

Source: IE


Context: Alice Munro, a Canadian Nobel laureate renowned for her short stories, is now the subject of a disturbing revelation by her daughter, Andrea Robin Skinner. Weeks after Munro’s death, Skinner disclosed that Munro’s second husband, Gerald Fremlin, had sexually abused her repeatedly.

Despite being aware of the abuse, Munro chose to stand by Fremlin, prioritizing her own needs over her daughter’s suffering. This revelation has tarnished Munro’s legacy, highlighting the moral fallibility of literary idols. Skinner’s estrangement from her family lasted until Munro’s death, and she ultimately shared her story to shed light on the hidden darkness behind Munro’s celebrated literary career.

Ethical Issues involved in the case:


  1. Failure to Protect: Alice Munro did not protect her daughter from abuse despite knowing about it.
  2. Silent Acquiescence: Munro’s choice to remain silent and support her abuser over her daughter.
  3. Victim Blaming: Fremlin blamed Skinner for the abuse, and Munro did not challenge this narrative.
  4. Complicity: Munro’s family and others close to the situation did not take action to stop the abuse or support Skinner initially.
  5. Prioritizing Personal Needs: Munro prioritized her own relationship with Fremlin over her daughter’s well-being.
  6. Abuse of Power: Fremlin used his position of trust as a stepfather to abuse Skinner.
  7. Public Deception: The true nature of Munro’s family life was hidden, potentially misleading the public about her character.
  8. Long-term Trauma: The prolonged impact of abuse on Skinner and the lack of support from her mother and family.

Course of Action: 

  1. Therapy and Counseling: Ensure continued psychological support for Skinner to help her heal.
  2. Public Apology: The Munro family should issue a public apology acknowledging past mistakes and supporting Skinner’s account.
  3. Advocate for Victims: Use Munro’s literary legacy to raise awareness about sexual abuse and advocate for victims’ rights.
  4. Family Reconciliation: Encourage ongoing dialogue within the family to rebuild trust and support Skinner.
  5. Legal Review: Review any remaining legal actions to ensure justice and closure for Skinner.
  6. Educational Outreach: Support programs and initiatives that educate the public about the importance of protecting and supporting abuse victims.
  7. Establish a Fund: Create a fund or foundation in Munro’s name to support abuse survivors and promote mental health services.