Gabrielle Roy, “Alicia”

A young girl tells the story of her older sister Alicia’s mental illness.

Photograph by Hari Roser


Gabrielle Roy, Alicia short story

Gabrielle Roy, Alicia short story (with highlights)

Gabrielle Roy, Alicia vocabulary

Vocabulary Games:

Crossword Puzzle – Nouns

Word Search – Verbs

Crossword Puzzle – Adjectives

Word Scramble – Misc

Questions to explore:

  • Alicia’s family, her younger sister, mother and father, never openly discuss “what’s wrong” with Alicia, not even among themselves. Why? What is gained or lost as a result?
  • Often, people , like Alicia, with mental disability are defined or seen through the lens of what they lack (their weaknesses or character traits that set them apart from being “normal”) rather than their strengths or unique perspectives they have. Is there anything to Alicia’s character that sets her apart, that makes her unique in her environment? Can disability be an asset as well not just a loss?
  • Seeing Alicia’s illness through the lens of a child (her sister) and through shared childhood experiences, her sister provides a unique perspective on Alicia that at times sets her apart from the adults of the household. What insight if any do we gain into Alicia’s illness that is unique to the sisters’ relationship and/or a child’s perspective?
  • How is the sisters’ relationship shaped by Alicia’s mental illness? Do you see any change in this relationship over time? Why, why not?
  • Why, do you think, Alicia bites her sister?
  • The title of the short story is “Alicia” yet we learn very little about who she is and what she thinks in the story. Why is Alicia’s character left so undefined given her central role?
  • In the story it is suggested at the funeral (perhaps by the priest ) that death for Alicia was a sign of God’s mercy on her and/or the best possible outcome. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • How do you think environmental factors (i.e., the way the family related to Alicia) impacted her illness and the outcome?

1 thought on “Gabrielle Roy, “Alicia”

  1. Anyone who has a sibling would find Alicia by Gabrielle Roy to be a compelling story. Watching an older sister or family member suffer from a mental illness must weigh heavily on the people around them. We, as readers, are given precisely that in this story. We are introduced to our narrator, whose older sister is struggling with a mental illness. The audience sees how this affects the older sister’s relationship with both her younger sister and her parents. I enjoyed reading this story, but I will admit I was not happy during it, and I was especially melancholy afterward. I was heartbroken at the obstacles the older sister had to endure. This reading is not the most joyous story, but it will tug at your heartstrings and provoke an emotional response. That is what we want as readers, and that is what Gabrielle Roy delivers as a writer.

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