Boys and Girls – Alice Munro Essay

The text “Boys and Girls” was published in 1968 in Alice Munro’s first edition of short stories “Dance of the happy shades”. It took Munro almost 20 years to write all the short stories in the book. she set the stories in a plain and calm Southern Ontario small town, by which is known to be full of pain, suffering and troubled emotions. The title of this story portrays the overall text, as the main theme is of the coming age of children in between societies back in the 1900s. The two main children *Laird and the narrator* are placed in hardship, in a society that gender stereotyping is always necessary and growing up towards adulthood is an extreme role situated upon the children.

Throughout this story, the main character is a girl, who is Lairds older sister. Their life is set on fox farm and as she grows up, those surrounding her are stereotyping her for not playing the *girl role* in the family. The girl herself is on a search of her own gender, as she first learns how to pelt the foxes through her father’s job. Munro uses violent descriptions in the text from pelting foxes to shooting horses. The narrator (also known as the girl) always helped her father at a young age; she would feed the foxes, clean the watering dishes and even bring the water.

Those surrounding her were not pleased of her work, they would only have a desire for her to be more lady-like and work in the house more often. As she once caught her mother negotiating with her father to get the girl to work in the house more. By observing the talk about her becoming more feminine, they invited her grandma over, in which she would advise her how to sit, how to close doors and what not to ask. This caused the narrator to simply rebel against all odds, but more overly it caused her to question herself of her own gender.

This text is not only feminist but the tell tale of the boy Laird is also extreme. His name “Laird” refers to lord, which implies that his role is to become the master. The boy learns how to hunt and over time he is turned into a man, in what the societies must have. At the end, the girl allows the horse to be let free, knowing her father must chase after it to kill it for the foxes. During dinner time, Laird explains to the family that it was all his sister’s fault that the horse had ran away. But her father had only brought in humour by referring that she is “only a girl.”

The atmosphere alone of this story is set in a world filled with stereotype, where the children sense that they must obey the laws that surround them of who they must be in order to live an accomplished life. This sex-role stereotyping leaves an effect on both children as they grow up to learn who they should be.

The story begins with the description of the characters in action, the use of similes was not used to describe the characters, but mainly how they are placed in action in the story. For example, the father is a fox farmer with a hired man named Henry Bailey and the house-work is the job of the mother. There was a sense of allusion when the narrator stated that her father’s favorite book in the world was Robinson Crusoe.The narrator then expresses her life, the reader understands that the girl has high imaginations of a boy with physical, strong, courageous and an adventurous life that she only wished she had.

Munro portrays feminism of her main character when dealing with muscular activities through every day of her life. An example of the girl portraying her male quality is as soon as Laird would fall asleep at night and she would curl herself up under her bed covers and tell herself bedtime stories that depict herself as a hero, as she stated: “I shot two rabid wolves who were menacing the schoolyard (the teachers cowered terrified at my back). Rode a fine horse spiritedly down the main street of Jubilee, acknowledging the townspeople’s gratitude for some yet-to-be-worked-out piece of heroism.” From the readers point of view the narrator is placed in a world of men that learn violence is the only way to live life and the only female surrounding the girl is her mother, which is not much of a role model throughout the story.

At first the girl began to imagine herself doing the man’s job when she’s older, and by doing so, she would help her father more often than usual enough for her father to tell the salesman that she was his “new hired hand”. But the salesman only reassured her that she must be a female by stating “I thought it was only a girl.” She was at the stage of being a ‘tomboy’ and most girls tend to come through that phase and eventually lead out of it. However, the narrator was going through this stage by different means. She wasn’t growing up in a city, surrounded by many girls but merely she was growing up in a man’s land, and it wasn’t known whether if she had any girl friends.

Like many other young girls, she does not follow the desires of others of who she must be, but instead she shows a higher aspiration of learning to do a man’s job. By this time, it all disturbs her mother and forces her to change her lifestyle into a girl’s point of view. The narrator later realizes that becoming a girl was no option, it was what she had to be, there was no escape and turning into a woman is who she will be, as she had stated: “A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become.”

Now that the narrator is aware of whom she must become and resisting it is only futile. Her freedom and innocence is now destroyed. This all led to the fact that she disobeyed her father’s rules in the end of the story. Thus due to the loss of innocence and freedom that she had, she feels that she needs to make the final attempt of avoiding those who stereotype.

This attempt was to let the horse that her father raised up free instead of obeying her father’s rules and closing the gate, she opened it wide open. By doing so, her father has become aware that she has lost her innocence now and she’s becoming a ‘lady’. However, the male stereotype against her brother was different. This was placed when he had the chance to leave on the horse hunt. Laird came back with horse blood on his arm which symbolized the man’s job. Laird announced what his sister (the narrator) had done, but her father did not get mad at her simply because “she’s only a girl”.

Munro had left the powerful point of the story at the end, by revealing the true identify of genders by contrasting between a female and male. That by this time the emotional side of the narrator was revealed, for she had great difficulty swallowing her food and began to cry. This symbolised the true aspect of being a girl. Society back in those days and in some places nowadays have certain rules in which genders can only behave in such a way. In some cultures males are taught at a young age how to hunt and not show any emotion and females are taught how to do housework and behave in a lady-like manner. This story overall brings forth the impression of how societies rules can alter a person’s own self-concept.