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Differentiation Between Women's Work And "Real Work" In Munro's "Boys And Girls" And Weldon's "Weekend"

1169 words - 5 pages

In Alice Munro's short story "Boys and Girls," the division between "real" work and women's work is encountered and explored. The narrator, growing up on a fox farm, struggles with her identity changing from that of a person, neutral, showing the lack of use of her name opposed to that of Laird (lord) and capable, to that of a girl with all its accompanying restrictions and responsibilities. Fay Weldon's "Weekend" takes that division and its accompanying inequity and runs with it, demonstrating the reality of drudgery as well as the invisibility of the drudge, through a depiction of the responsibilities and impossibilities of wifehood.The narrator of "Boys and Girls" is a pre-teen girl, vaguely aware of the gender role she will eventually fill and also vaguely resentful of it. Marlene Goldman, in her essay "Penning in the Bodies," asserts that children are constructed into gendered subjects by the use of controlled space (1). The narrator's mother represents the inside world of kitchens, dark and uncomfortable, and the work she does is "endless, dreary and peculiarly depressing," perhaps because of its invisibility to her father. The narrator resents her mother's trying to get her to help in the house more; she would prefer to be outside with her father, doing the work she perceives as real and as "ritualistically important" (Munro 117). Perceiving the distinctions that adults take for granted, the narrator fights to maintain her place of importance in the outside, masculine world. More or less, the narrator views the kitchen as a prison, and the outside world is her haven. She grows increasingly aware of the inevitability of becoming a girl, but does not accept it, responding to her Grandmother's instructions of proper behavior with door slamming and sitting "as awkwardly as possible" (Munro 119).The culmination of the narrator's attempts to avoid her impending girlhood and eventual womanhood arrives when one of the horses the family keeps (for meat to feed the foxes they raise) escapes her handler. Flora, the horse, was to be shot that day and butchered to feed the foxes. As Flora is running around in the barnyard, the narrator's father implores her to shut the gate, but she does not; in fact she opens it wide and lets Flora escape. "I did not make any decision to do this, it was just what I did" (Munro 125). Goldman posits that this action was a deliberate frustration of "her father's project of separating inside from outside," and that after seeing her father shoot another horse (and his complicity with the hired hand's joking about that horse's death), she no longer identifies with him, but sees him as an "abuse[r] of power" (6).I would argue that the narrator also subconsciously identifies with Flora, as opposed to the male macho, and sees a symbol of her own resistance in Flora's escape. Her realization of the futility of Flora's attempt to break free coincides with her beginning acceptance of the gender role she is expected to fill:...

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