Alice Munros Journey Motif in Boys and Girls
Many short stories are recognized as milestones in the development of modern realist fiction. “Boys and Girls” is a short story that evokes a realistic rather than romantic view of a girl’s journey towards finding herself. This short story includes the fight for her gender, and her struggle with her identity. Also, in addition to these two defining aspects, this short story contains the realistic account of who and what she is to become.
Clearly one of the main themes evident in this short story, the battle with her identity and gender is quickly made apparent. The narrator is a young girl who appreciates, respects and holds her father’s authority in high regard, while she looks down on her mother’s weakness. This weakness stems from the fact that her father dominates her mother. Her views toward her mother’s femininity stem from her own insecurities about becoming a woman, and thus they tend to be indifferent in nature. She does not think that women are bad people, but does think that they have ulterior intentions.
My mother, I felt, was not to be trusted. She was kinder than my father and more easily fooled, but you could not depend on her, and the real reasons for the things that she said and did were not to be known. She loved me, and she sat up late at night making a dress of the difficult style I wanted, for me to wear when school started, but she was also my enemy. (272)
In the story women are portrayed through the lives of the foxes that her father raises. The author uses the foxes as a means to express her own conceptions of what life as a housewife is like. The foxes are not named until they make it through the first breeding year. This symbolizes how women do not keep their own name and that they are expected to take their husband’s name when they marry. A true feminist at heart, the author believes that women are caged creatures, not unlike the foxes, and that the power than men have over women is something that desperately needs to change. The identity of the girl is associated heavily with men because the author wants women to be independent. The girl in the story therefore continues to value and be proud of all the work that she does for her father, but also continues to defy her mother and the fact that she is a girl. Her dreams are filled with stories of grand adventures where she plays the heroic rescuer and takes everyone to safety. However, as she grows and begins to notice the difference between boys and girls, her dreams become less involved with being the rescuer as being the one rescued. Perhaps this is because the feminine instinct inside of her is beginning to develop, or maybe just because she in giving in to the inevitable. Whatever the reason, the gender issues that the girl experiences are closely entwined with the identity uncertainties that she has about herself.
The girl in this story is faced with the harsh reality of who she...