Alice Munro's Boys and Girls and John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums

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The difference between men and women is a very controversial issue, while there are obviously physical differences; the problem is how the genders are treated. It is stereotypically thought that the men do the labor work and make all the money, while the women stay in the house, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children. While this stereotype does not exist as much in the 21st century, it was very prevalent in the 1900s. By using many different literary tools such as character development, symbolism, and setting, Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls and John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums challenge this controversial topic of the treatment of women versus men in the 1900s.
Munro uses a fox farm for the setting of Boys and Girls to bring
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Although, unlike Munro, Steinbeck also uses the setting as an insight to Elisa’s thoughts and to reflect her feelings. The story opens up with a lengthy description of Salinas Valley were Elisa and Henry live. The valley is described to be like a “closed pot” (Steinbeck 1) with “no sunshine” (Steinbeck 1). This description reflects Elisa’s emotions since she hides her true feelings of sadness and a dull, un-eventful life. Although, despite the winter weather the inhabitants of Salinas Valley wait and are “mildly hopeful” (Steinbeck 2) of better weather, just like how Elisa is hopeful and constantly waiting for something better to come along in her life.
Another important literary element used by Munro and Steinbeck is symbolism. In Boys and Girls, Munro uses horses within the girl’s stories and in reality as a key symbol for freedom, and also as a parallel to the girl’s life. The girl often dreamed of ruling a world where everyone had equal opportunities and riding “a find horse spiritedly down the main street of Jubilee” (Munro 6). This showed some of the girl’s masculine qualities of courage and nobility, but what the girl would soon realize is that it was the men that were expected to save the village not women. In reality, Flora the horse symbolized freedom but also symbolized the girl and her life. After being locked in a dark stable during the long winter months,
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