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Alice Munro’s Short Story, Boys And Girls

865 words - 4 pages

A women’s place is in the kitchen, cooking dinner or cleaning. These words will certainly provoke some strong emotions if spoken today, but forty or fifty years ago this was considered an acceptable social norm. Alice Munro’s short story, “Boys and Girls”, examines the life of a young girl, and chronicles the effect that her parents, the influence of friends and family, and key events in her childhood, have on her transformation into a young woman. As children grow, they learn the majority of their behaviors and how to carry themselves from the first teachers they encounter, which in most cases are their parents.
As the girl in the story grows older, her mother begins to try to involve her in some of the daily tasks that a woman should grow accustomed to. During the time period of the story, “Boys and Girls”, a girl is usually taught by her mother how to cook, clean, and sew. A boy is taught by his father how to hunt, build, and protect his family. This way of thinking stems from the nomadic days of humans, where the man would hunt and gather and the women would care for the children. The girl in this story detests the womanly duties and instead opts for working outdoors with her father, “[she] worked willingly under his eyes, and with a feeling of pride” (147). She saw the work done in the house as, “endless, dreary and particularly depressing; work done outdoors, and in [her] fathers service, was ritualistically important” (148). At this point in the story she resists any change that may be approaching and continues to help her father with his work whenever possible. When she does help her father with his work, she finds that others dismiss her as inferior.
The common theme that is emphasized by others throughout the story is one of a demeaning quality, “She’s only a girl” (154). She hears this degrading propaganda in one form or another as she begins to understand the role that a female must accept. During the winter that she is eleven, she explains, “the word girl formerly seemed innocent and unburdened, like the word child; now it appears that being a girl was not what she was, but rather what she had to learn to become” (149). She is reminded several times that her little brother will soon be bigger and stronger than she. It is just a natural fact of human biology that males are bigger and stronger than females. But this fact does not keep the girl in...

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