Friday, July 13, 2012

Boys and Girls By Alice Munro

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Because the fear of change is a part of human nature, quite often society will not accept you until youve become the person they expect you to be. In

Alice Munros Boys and Girls, a young girl, whose name is never mentioned, struggles through growing up out of a child into societys expectations of a young

lady. Although at first she does not take any interest in becoming that person, she later wonders if it is her unavoidable destiny. Society sets boundaries for everything and everyone and this girl attempts and fails to break through the boundaries of being a female.

The girl lives in a house with her mother, a stereo-typical house wife, her younger brother Laird, and her father, a fox farmer whom she adored. In their house, on the other side of the stairwell were things that nobody had any use for anymore. This foreshadows how the girl would feel once her brother was a little older and was able to help her father with the outdoor mens jobs. That made me no use to anybody, she thought. She and her brother, Laird, were afraid at night inside their room. To comfort themselves they would sing songs and they knew that [they] were safe as long as [they] didnt step off the square of worn carpet which defined [their] bedroom space. Similarly, the girl would later realize that she would be safe as long as she stayed in the boundaries society had created for females. Nevertheless, as a child she took much pride in helping her father with his work and she was constantly searching for his approval. I worked willingly under his eyes, and with a feeling of pride. She wanted her father to be proud of her and she viewed his work as much more important then her mothers work. It seemed to me that work in the house was endless, dreary, and peculiarly depressing; work done out of doors, and in my fathers service was rituallistically important. She went on to mention that she hated the hot dark kitchen in summer, ironically, the very place she would be expected to work in as a woman. To the girl, the kitchen resembled a foxs kennel-- something like a clothes chest with airholes. Just like her mother, she would probably one day be outside and look out of place, with her bare lumpy legs, not touched by the sun, he apron still on and damp acrossthe stomach from the supper dishes. But, she didnt know it yet. The innocent little girl didnt yet have a clue that what she would become had already been determined by the boundaries society set for being a woman.

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She didnt seem to mind that her father barely talked to her except regarding work. My father did not talk to me unless it was about the job we were doing...and I was shy of him and would never ask him questions. This is most likely due to the time that the story was set in, and so it was just common that fathers didnt talk to their daughters much. Like to have you meet my new hired man, I turned away and raked furiously, red in the face with pleasure. Being considered a worker by her father made her feel proud and important. She would much rather take the role of a man who would be important in life than that of a females. Females at the time were stereo-typed as helpless and in need of rescue. Women were seen to have only one sole purpose-- childbearing. The foxes too only had one use and that was for their furs. Once they were skinned, they looked suprisingly small, mean and rat-like and were collected in a sack and buried at the dump. The foxes inhabited a world my father made for them. Much the same, she inhabited a world society created, a world plump-full of boundaries and stereo-types.

The changes from a child into a girl become evident to her the winter [she] was eleven years old and [they] had two horses in th stable. The two horses, Mack and Flora, would be kept in the stable until they were needed to feed the foxes. Mack, meaning son of, represents Laird. He was slow and easy to handle. Mack stood against the barn wall trying to scratch his neck and haunches, but Flora trotted up and down and reared at the fences, clattering her hooves against the rails. Flora, of course, represents the girl in her struglle to fight off the female stereo-type. The girl displays her rebellion to the stereotype after her grandmother began to tell her hose she was supposed to act as a girl. Girls dont slam doors like that. Girls keep their knees together when they sit down, her grandmother lectured. So, [She] continued to slam doors and sit as awkwardly as possible, thinking that by such measures [she] kept [her]self free. She knew deep down that becoming a girl was unavoidable, but she still seemed to feel the need to fight back. The word girl had formerly seemed to me innocent and unburdened, like the word child; now it appeared that it was no such thing. A girl was not, as i had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become, she thought to herself.

Later the girl would have to say goodbye to the horses though she had almost forgotten they were going to be shot. We see her girliness (if you will) quite clearly after she watches Mack get shot dead. Though she did not have any great feeling of horror, she felt a little ashamed , and there was a new wariness, a sense of holding-off, in [her] attitude to [her] father and his work. She also began to catch herself wondering if [she] would be pretty when [she] grew up. As well, her bedtime stories changed. She still told herself stories each night but they changed from ones in which [she] rescued people from a bombed building...[or] [she] shot two rabid wolves who were menacing the school yard (the teachers cowered terrified at [her] back), into ones in which someboday was rescuing [her]...and at this point the story concerned itself at great length with what [she] looked like. Finally, when Flora was about to escape and the girl was the only one who could make it in time to shut the gate, and her father shouter to her Go shut the gate!, instead, she opened it as wide as [she] could. Sunconsciously she had decided to let Flora run free. She hadnt thought about it, she just did it. This freeing of Flora symbolizes the girls last attempt to free herself of the stereotype of a woman. But, she is caught when her father says shes just a girl, in response to her crying and finding out that she had actually freed Flora. Flora was caught in the end too. And the girl gave in and gave up her fight. I didnt protest that, even in my heart. Maybe it was true, she thought.

Though sometimes it may seem like a struggle, the changes that we undergo throughout life to please society are often unavoidable and sometime for the better. What is normal in society is what society expects from us, and even if we try to be different, we are generally unsuccessful. Even if we are successful, the result tends to be alienation from society which is not a particularly desirable state. In Alice Munros Boys and Girls, the narrator is not accepted into society until she undergoes the necessary changes for becoming a lady, thus meeting societys expectations of women at the time.

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