The Struggle for Self-Definition in Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

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The Struggle for Self-Definition in Boys and Girls

When we are adolescents we see the world through our parents' eyes. We struggle to define ourselves within their world, or to even break away from their world. Often, the birth of our "self" is defined in a moment of truth or a moment of heightened self-awareness that is the culmination of a group of events or the result of a life crisis or struggle. In literature we refer to this birth of "self" as an epiphany. Alice Munro writes in "Boys and Girls" about her own battle to define herself. She is torn between the "inside" world of her mother and the "outside" world of her father. In the beginning her father's world prevails, but by the finale, her mother's world invades her heart. Although the transformation is not complete, she begins to understand and define her "self-hood."

Alice Munro's "Boys and Girls" immerses us into the rural country-side of Jubilee, Ontario, Canada, and into the life of an eleven year-old tom-boy. The story unfolds how she struggles to become herself while growing up on her parents' farm. Her father raises silver foxes for the family's meager source of income as her mother cares for their home. Let us first look at the world she is enthralled with at the start of her narrative.

Initially, Father is her world. As she helps him care for the foxes, she does not call him Daddy; she calls him Father. The name Father commands respect and formality. Munro writes, ". . . I was shy of him and would never ask him questions. Nevertheless I worked willing under his eyes, and with a feeling of pride" (112). Although eager and happy to spend time with her father, Munro reveals here that she does not have a close relationship with her fath...

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...earning from her mother, she will define herself as well. Indeed, it is not easy growing up. It is painfully hard to defy the person that you most admire, in this case her father. But at some point in our young lives we must break free from the conformity of our parents' world in order to give birth to our "self." This is what Alice Munro shows us through "Boys and Girls."

Works Cited and Consulted

Carscallen, James. The Other Country: Patterns in the Writing of Alice Munro. Toronto: ecw 1993

Heble, Ajay. The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1994

Munro, Alice. "Boys and Girls." The Norton Introduction to Literature. Eds. Carl E. Bain, Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1995.

Martin, W.R. Alice Munro: Paradox and Parallel. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press 1987

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