She also looks at the very different worlds—outside and inside, the male sphere and the female sphere— described by Munro in the story. ‘‘My father was a fox farmer.’’ So begins Alice Munro’s short story ‘‘Boys and Girls,’’ a narrative which highlights the almost invisible societal forces which shape children, in this case, the narrator and her brother Laird, into gendered adults. There is no doubt that males and females are biologically distinct at birth. Yet the behaviours and roles ascribed to each sex on the basis of this biological distinction are not natural. In this study, then, when I speak of gender, I refer not to sex, but to this set of prescribed behaviours.
Children, as the text clearly illustrates, do not evolve naturally into gendered adults. Instead, the construction of gendered subjects constitutes a form of production. Yet unlike other systems of production, the mechanisms which assist in the creation of gendered adults remain invisible; they seem natural, and for this reason they are taken for granted. One such ‘‘invisible’’ mechanism, central to the production of gendered adults, involves the division and control of space. In ‘‘Boys and Girls,’’ spatial divisions and the control of space within the home and on the farm are emphasized by a narrator still young enough to remark upon details which the adults ignore. As a result of the narrator’s relatively innocent and inquisitive perspective, the reader can appreciate how the division of space facilitates two seemingly disparate systems of production: farming and the construction of gendered adults.
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