Gender Roles in Alice Munro’s "Boys and Girls" and Bobbie Ann Mason’s "Shiloh"

Gender Roles in Alice Munro’s "Boys and Girls" and Bobbie Ann Mason’s "Shiloh"

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Up until recently, the definition of what a man or a woman should be has been defined, with boundaries, by society; males should be strong, dominant figures and in the workplace providing for their families while females should be weak and submissive, dealing with cleaning, cooking and children. Any veering away from these definitions would have disrupted the balance of culture completely. A man playing housewife was absurd, and a woman being the sole provider for the family bizarre. In Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls” and Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh”, conflict arises when expectations based on gender are not fulfilled by the characters.
According to “Boys and Girls”, there are certain things women should not be doing as defined by their genders. The narrator, a young girl, feels more inclined to spend her time outside alongside her father, “I worked willingly under his eyes, and with a feeling of pride.” She finds her place in a man’s world, outdoors in her father’s domain. While she is a female, she does not relate herself to the things of feminine nature. When her mother goes to speak with her father in the barn the narrator “felt my mother had no business down here,” admitting that it was a man’s world, and also her place, but not her mother’s. Her mother could not stand the idea of her daughter doing a man’s work, reminding her husband, “Wait till Laird gets a little bigger, then you’ll have real help and then I can use her more in the house. It’s not like I had a girl in the family at all.” According to her mother’s definition of girls, a daughter, who spends all her time outside doing a son’s work, is not a daughter at all.
Parallel to “Boys and Girls” restrictions on what women do, “Shiloh” exemplifies what me...

... middle of paper ...

...a woman was supposed to do. The mother solves her conflict with her daughter by pulling her away from the outdoors, and slowly but surely the narrator no longer dreams of saving people, but of being saved; she falls into the definition she once struggled against.
Some of society today has luckily overcome the definitions of men and women, allowing people to form their own identities, but this is not without much conflict. Women experienced a great deal conflict to be seen as equals to men in the workplace. Homosexuals have stepped out of society’s gender expectations, producing their own controversies and disagreements. The traditional gender roles of “Shiloh” and “Boys and Girls” are from the past, and many steps have been made past them, but society still holds on tight to portions of those established ways. Still, conflict will always occur where ideas diverge.

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