The short story "Red Dress" by Alice Munro is about a young girl's first high school dance. Her home and school environment determined her attitude towards the dance. This girl's home life was bad. She was constantly put down mentally by her mother, even in front of her friend Lonnie, to the point that the narrator envied Lonnie on account that her mother died and she lived alone with her father. "'I doubt if she appreciates it.' She enraged me, talking like this to Lonnie, as if Lonnie were grown up and I were still a child." Her mother was obscene in the house; the description that is given would make one sick. It is said that she did not take care of herself in the house, and exposed her lumpy veins to the in-house public.
This probably made the narrator think that she is also ugly because she came from this disgusting creature. This makes her attitude towards the dance understandable. When Mason Williams comes to dance with her, she describes dancing with a 'nobody' like her was "as offensive to him as having to memorize Shakespeare." The narrator's school life was just as bad if not worse. She would never be sure of herself when she is called up to the blackboard. Her "hands became slippery with sweat when they were required to work the blackboard compass." She would also envision the worst case scenario, that she had her period prior to being called to the front of the class, even when impossible.
This shows that her self-esteem is really low, and she could not deal with the dance. The dance was an experience in itself. Her attitudes towards the events in the dance also show her attitude. When she met Mary Fortune, she was "grateful for her attention, her company and her cigarette." This shows that not many people pay attention to her and that she doesn't have many friends. Her mentality is that if you can't deal with rejection, don't get the chances to get rejected. After she dance with Raymond Bolting, this attitude changes and her "life was possible", she now was able to take risks.
The narrator's first high school dance was not as big a disaster as was anticipated. She learned a big lesson that could only be obtained by this experience. She understood that her paranoia should not be there, and that she can live her own life despite her home and school life.