Coming of Age in Alice Munro’s "Boys and Girls" Essay
1086 Words5 Pages
In Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls,” there is a time line in a young girl’s life when she leaves childhood and its freedoms behind to become a woman. The story depicts hardships in which the protagonist and her younger brother, Laird, experience in order to find their own rite of passage. The main character, who is nameless, faces difficulties and implications on her way to womanhood because of gender stereotyping. Initially, she tries to prevent her initiation into womanhood by resisting her parent’s efforts to make her more “lady-like”. The story ends with the girl socially positioned and accepted as a girl, which she accepts with some unease. The young girl in the story is struggling with finding her own gender identity. She would much…show more content…
Throughout the story the protagonist is left nameless. This provides the reader with another question of identity. Without a name to attach to the character, we are left without an identity.
There is distinction between the types of power that are inherent through the children’s separate blood-gender lines. The boy is given a higher status due to being a male, while the girl is relegated to a lower social role because she is female. The young girl’s brother, Laird, becomes the man that is entitled to help his father throughout the story. At the beginning of the story, Laird is a small boy and is not as useful to his father as the young girl is. The mother believes the girl isn’t much help to her father to begin with, as the mother says to the father, “Wait till Laird gets a little bigger, then you’ll have a real help” (329). But, as time goes on in the story, Laird gets older and stronger. For example, when Laird and his older sister were fighting, “and for the first time ever I had to use all my strength against him; even so, he caught and pinned my arm for a moment, really hurting me” (331). Laird is becoming the helpful son that his father needs around the farm, which delegates the young girl to a position of less physical standard to her father. Eventually, the girl realizes that she has to become more like her mother. This realization is shown through the definition, “A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to
Show MoreSociety tries to place many rules upon an individual as to what is acceptable and what is not . One must decide for themselves whether to give in to these pressures and conform to society’s projected image, or rather to resist and maintain their own desired self image. In the story “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro, Munro suggests that this conflict is internal and external and a persons experiences in life will determine which of these forces will conquer. In terms of the unnamed protagonist’s experiences in the story, it becomes clear just how strong the pressure of society to conform really is, as it overcomes and replaces the girl’s self image.
In order to better understand the conflict, first we must define what conformity and self…show more content…
Although seemingly unimportant to the storyline, the presence of the foxes and horses play a major role in the story, as they symbolize the sides of the conflict between conformity and self image. The foxes represent conformity; they all live in the same routine, are controlled by others in their environment, and are both literally and metaphorically locked in a cage. The narrator’s environment is much like the foxes, controlling. Her parent’s subtle hints, whether it be her mother’s comments or her father’s tasks, are slowly but surely enclosing on her like a cage, and will soon trap her.
The horses however, try as hard as they can, much like the narrator, to roam free for as long as possible, seemingly unaware of the forces acting against them in an attempt to deny them their freedom. For the horses, this force was the narrator’s father, who felt that they had a purpose to be served, in the narrator’s case, it was her mother’s thought that she had a place to be served as well; inside the home. In the case of the foxes and horses, neither win, as they both die in the end, much like people. However, although the horse’s lives end much sooner, they get to experience something that the foxes do not, and that is freedom. The protagonist’s desire for freedom is clearly desirable as she expresses her resistance to conform to societies ideals by continuing to do things against the norm, “thinking that by such measures [she] kept