Alice Munro’s short story “Gravel” happens in two different timelines: the narrator speaks in the present as an adult, retelling a story that happened in the past. The short story was published in 2011, and the setting in which the adult narrator speaks is probably meant to be read as contemporary to the time of publishing. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the narrator’s present is the early twenty-first century.
The story in the narrator’s childhood might happen during the late twentieth century. Neal’s preoccupation with American Atomic bombs may suggest that the action takes place during the Cold War, when America was developing a large scale nuclear strategy and was rapidly arming itself with nuclear weapons. The mother’s desire to live in a more free manner and the way she chooses to dress are representative of the hippie culture, which experienced a rise in the 1970s. This period of time also corresponds to the final stage of the Cold War, when massive anti-nuclear protests were taking place worldwide.
The action takes place over the span of several months. It begins in summer, when the narrator moves to the trailer, and it ends in spring, when the “snow dwindled magically”, filling the gravel pit with water.
The story is most prob...