Gender Role Reevaluation in Boys and Girls by Alice Munro Essay

Gender Role Reevaluation in Boys and Girls by Alice Munro Essay

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Gender Role Reevaluation in Boys and Girls

 
   Recent history boldly notes the protests and political unrest surrounding the Vietnam Conflict during the 1960s and 70s. However, equally important in this era are the women who pushed for gender role reevaluation and publicly rebelled against the established social norm of a woman's "place." Although Alice Munro may not have been burning her bra on the courthouse steps, threads of a feminist influence can be found in "Boys and Girls." Munro's main character, a girl probably modeled after Munro's own childhood experiences on an Ontario farm, faces her awakening body and the challenge of developing her social identity in a man's world. "The girl," an unnamed character, acts as a universal symbol for the initiation of a girl into womanhood. Through first-person narrative, Munro shoes the girl's views of her budding femininity and social identity by describing the girl's conceptions of her parents' work, her parallel to the wild mare Flora, and the "mysterious alterations" (Munro 474) in her personal nightly stories.

 

         As if to forsake her femininity and forego a life of confinement and housework, the girl reveres her father's work and condemns her mother's duties. The sum of the girl's respect seems to lie with her father, as is evident in her reference to his work outdoors as "ritualistically important" (468). On the other hand, while the girl recognizes that her mother is busy, she still considers her mother's "work in the house [to be] [·] endless, dreary and peculiarly depressing" (468). The division between her parents' tasks is especially apparent in the girl's reaction to her mother's presence at the barn. She feels threatened by her...


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...hether this quantifies complete acceptance with the girl, however, is not solidified by Munro due to the final sentence: "Maybe it was true" (475).

 

         Through opinion, comparison, and imagination Munro details the girl's journey from a rebellious tomboy to a slowly blooming woman. The characteristics so endearing to the girl's developing identity, such as her assistance in Flora's escape and her unwillingness [comment13] to easily submit to the social constraints of life as a woman, also lend themselves to her universality as a representative to initiation to femininity. Munro's own personal views of femininity arguably color this work, "Boys and Girls."

 

Works Cited

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. 465-75.

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