Gender Roles in Alice Munro's Boys and Girls

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In Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls,” our narrator is a young farm girl on the verge of puberty who is learning what it means to be a “girl.” The story shows the differing gender roles of boys and girls – specifically that women are the weaker, more emotional sex – by showing how the adults of the story expect the children to grow into their respective roles as a girl and a boy, and how the children grow up and ultimately begin to fulfill these roles, making the transition from being “children” to being “young adults.”

The adults in the story expect the children to grow into the gender role that their sex has assigned to them. This is seen in several places throughout the story, such as when the narrator hears her mother
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Neither child has an interest in the work of their parent of the same gender; Laird runs off to play instead of helping with the foxes, and the narrator escapes from the kitchen the first chance she gets (Munro 495). Later in the story, however, Laird begins to take an interest in the men’s work of hunting and killing the horse, and the narrator, while not yet embracing the work of her mother, is disengaging herself from her father’s work and turning toward the more feminine work of decorating her room. Neither of them sing songs anymore, even though the narrator continued to enjoy it, Laird said it “sounded silly,” so she stopped (Munro 501); this is an example of both Laird becoming more masculine, because he no longer wants to take part in frivolous things such as singing “Jingle Bells” at night, and the narrator becoming more feminine, because she so easily bows to her brother’s opinion. Laird has started to accept the role of “leader” instead of just being “young and obedient,” (Munro 499) and the narrator is taking other people’s opinions into consideration when deciding her actions, instead of just doing whatever she wants to do.

From the beginning to the end of the story, the narrator undergoes a transformation from a child of the farm to a young woman. From my perspective, she does not start out as particularly masculine; she is more of a blank slate that is trying to rebel against what she views as
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