Awareness In Boys And Girls By Alice Munro

1064 words - 4 pages

When children are faced with emotional events that challenge their ideas, they take another step on the road to being “grown up” as they discover their identity. The short story “Boys and Girls” written by Alice Munro illustrates this coming of age by allowing us to follow the development of a young girl. We follow the main character, who narrates the story, as she changes from beginning to end. As the story opens, the narrator acts like a care free child, not paying heed to her gender. She then begins to react strongly to the way she is treated by her family and their expectations of her young womanhood. Once she realizes that some changes are inevitable she begins to adopt a new understanding of who she is which is evidence of a more mature way of thinking. This story demonstrates that difficult childhood experiences regarding gender contribute to a developing maturity and are frequently met with varying degrees of resistance.

In the early parts of the story, the narrator behaves in a way that would be expected of a young child. She, along with her younger brother, finds Henry Bailey (the family’s hired hand) to be quite amusing in his antics. She states that “we admired [Henry] for [his] performance and for his ability to make his stomach growl at will, and for his laughter, which was full of high whistling and gurgling and involved the whole faulty machinery of his chest”(101). Being afraid of the dark is another experience that she and her brother share, and they fabricate rules that “When the light was on, [they] were safe as long as [they] did not step off the square of worn carpet which defined [their] bedroom-space” (101). Children that are of a young age will often make up stories that reflect their search for adventure. The narrator fantasizes about this kind of story, choosing to tell tales that made her the hero as well as “presented opportunities for courage, boldness, and self-sacrifice” (102). It is imminent, however, that all children “grow up” and will at some point become conscious of what differentiates them from others.

As the story further develops, the narrator becomes aware that she is not just a child but that she is a girl, and she is resistant to what this implies. Her mother and grandmother expect the narrator to carry herself appropriately: “Girls keep their knees together when they sit down” (107). The girl chooses to remain defiant, when she says that she, “continued to slam doors and sit as awkwardly as possible, thinking that by such measures [she] kept herself free” (107). The older women of the family also pressure the main character into becoming more involved in the household chores, yet she resists the prodding and views as her mother’s way of “plotting to get [her] to stay in the house more…and keep [her] from working with her father”(106) as going against her in some mean spirited way. The narrator continues to feel the pressure to change when...

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