How Societal Gender Role Conformity and Self Preservation Affect Identity
In the short story Boys and Girls, Alice Munro suggests that although societal roles are needed, the interest, opportunity and respect in the roles are not fairly divided; therefore the roles are not equally appreciated. Through the protagonist Munro tells the story of a young girl who struggles against societies’ ideas of how unfair gender roles should contribute to her identity. Her initial resistance and rejection of her roles is weighed against her desire for self-preservation.
Munro’s reason to leave the narrator unnamed could possibly be a symbol that the female protagonist is without a defined identity or the prospect of power. This is juxtaposed by the name of her younger brother Laird; a name that means “lord” and implies that he, by advantage of his gender alone, is raised with promise of power and authority over others. Laird and the narrator share a bedroom. After Laird would go to sleep she stayed up and told herself stories in which she was a great hero. She dreamed she was courageous and bold and she accomplished great feats to rescue others. Growing up, the narrator loves to help her father outside with the foxes, rather than to aid her mother with "dreary and peculiarly depressing" work done in the kitchen. Her family does not support her in this, with her mother even remarking “It’s not like I had a girl in the family at all.” She sees her mother as her enemy because she is forced to be used in the house.
However, helping her father with farm work is seen by her parents as only necessary until Laird is old enough to help. The contrast between the pride she feels working for her father, and what she sees as the boring chores of her mother, illustrate an arising internal struggle between what is expected of the narrator, and what she wants to do. In the stories she tells herself before sleeping, she thinks of herself doing courageous and bold deeds, though in...
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