Instructor: M. Fast
Class: Eng 1127
Due Date: Dec 6, 2012
Literary Analysis of Gender Inequality and Social Conditioning in a Patriarchal Society in Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls”
Word Count 1,086
Written in 1968, Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls” is set on a farm where foxes are raised for the fur trade. The main characters in this story are the Mother, the Father, the eldest daughter and son. The mother and father have established stereotypical gender roles; the mother does indoor domestic work, while the father does outdoor work maintaining the fox farm. The eldest daughter, known as the ‘girl’, is the narrator of the story. “Boys and Girls” centers on the exploration of the narrator’s self-identity. The girl values and prefers doing the outdoor work on the farm with her father as opposed to domestic indoor work. This desire contrasts with social expectations and rigid gender stereotypes that ultimately determine the outcome of her journey. In the story, the brother or ‘boy’ is one of the few characters given a name, Laird, meaning ‘Lord’, symbolizing his greater value on the farm than the girl. In the beginning of the story Laird is portrayed as friendly and remains loyal to his sister because he is still too young to take on any major responsibility around the farm. Later in the story the reader discovers Laird is also undergoing changes related to gender role pressure and eventually becomes disloyal to his sister in order to gain the loyalty of their father. Due to stereotyped gender expectations in a patriarchal society, the girl is oppressed through internal and external social conditioning, but she is allowed to keep her emotional connectedness, while Laird is cut off from his. Due to patriarchal social conditioning, external examples of stereotypical gender roles the girl experiences on the family farm shape her views to regard female gender roles as less desirable than male roles. The girl views her mother’s...