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Gender Roles and Maturity Essay Sample

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Gender Roles and Maturity Essay Sample

Boys and girls, is a fictional short story, beautifully written by Alice Munro, about gender identity and stereotypes, as a young child moves into adulthood. The story takes place in the 1940s on a fox farm in Jubilee, Ontario. During this time women were viewed as second class citizens but the narrator, who is also the protagonist, desires to be more than “just a girl”. Through the conflicts of the protagonist, Munro depicts the challenges of growing up with gender stereotypes. Her use of first person narration and characterization help to show the hardships of passage into adulthood, and she is still able to examine gender roles for girls and boys, through the use of her secondary characters. Munro depicts the challenging journey form youth to maturity through her use of first person narration. The protagonist is a young woman and though her eyes, Alice Munro explains what it feels like to mature into a young woman. She starts by showing the youth of the girl through her dreams.

“These stories were about myself, when I had grown a little older; they took place in a world that was recognizably mine, yet one that presented opportunities for courage, boldness, and self-sacrifice, as mine never did.” (Munro, 352) Munro is showing that the child dreams of being a hero, and being important to the world, someone that they can look up to. Whereas later on in the story Munro again tells us of the protagonist’s dreams but they have changed drastically since her first dreams. “A story might start off in the old way, with spectacular danger, a fire or wild animals, and for a while I might rescue people; then things would change around, and instead, somebody would be rescuing me.” (Munro, 360) This shows how much the child has grown and matured since the start of the story. At the beginning she was the hero, and by the end she starts to think about boys and someone to rescue her.

Maturity remains as a constant theme in the story. Alice Munro uses the characterization of specifically Laird, to express the difficulties of growing up, and defying gender roles. Laird means Lord. This is Munro’s way of showing that the young female protagonist’s parents see their son, her brother, as the more useful child and take more pride in him as opposed to her. This is shown through a quote from Laird’s mother (also the narrators mother); “Wait till Laird gets a little bigger, then you’ll have a real help.”(Munro, 354) Munro wants to make it clear that since he is a boy he will age to become more useful than the protagonist, who is a girl. However the protagonist is hurt by her mother’s comment because she sees her little brother as useless compared to her. Munro shows this by portraying Laird to be weak and small, compared to his older sister. “Laird came too with his little cream and green gardening can, filled too full and knocking against his legs and slopping water on his canvas shoes.”(353) Because Laird is a boy he is treated differently in the eyes of society.

Gender roles and stereotypes were a large part of society in the 1940s. Munro emphasizes the gender roles of the 1940s, through her brilliant use of secondary characters. Throughout Boys and Girls, Munro introduces secondary characters, simply to reinforce the idea that females have a specific gender role. For example the protagonist’s grandmother comes to visit one day an makes constant comments on how a girl should act. “Girls don’t slam doors like that, girls keep their knees together when they sit down”(Munro, 356) This is Munro’s way of implying that the protagonist does not act very much like a young lady should have, back in the 1940s. Another key example is when Alice Munro introduces a salesman into the story. The salesman is trying to sell feed to her father for his foxes, and when the narrator’s father comments “like to have you meet my new hired man” to the salesman (referring to his daughter), the salesman replies with the comment “could have fooled me, I thought it was only a girl”(Munro, 353)

Munro has the father refer to his daughter as his hired man, because she wants to make it clear that hired hands are always men. This point is validated when the salesman calls her “just a girl”, because this implies that women cannot do the work that men do. These were the typical gender stereotypes of the 1940s. Throughout the fictional short story Boys and Girls, by Alice Munro there are constant reminders about gender stereotypes and the struggles that young people go through to reach adulthood. Through the use of first person narration, characterization, and secondary characters, Munro shows how difficult it was for young girls to grow up in the 1940s. She wanted the reader to understand the importance of finding ones identity and accepting it, and by the end of the story the young female protagonist became more than “just a girl”.

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