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Summary of the Short Story "Boy and Girls" by Alice Munro

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The short story “Boy and Girls” takes place in the 1940s. This was era where women were viewed very differently from men. Many of the problems women face in today’s world, in regard to gender stereotypes derive from this time period. The girl in the short story is around the age of eleven and does not yet understand the separate roles men and women are supposed to follow. This short story depicts her transition into womanhood as well as her struggles coming to terms with her role as a woman in society.

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She lives with her family, which consists of her mother, father, and little brother Laird, on their farm, and her life is characterized by different gender roles. Her brother’s name is Laird which is another word for lord, which plays an important role in a story where a young girl has society’s unwritten rules forced upon her. The girl’s father works in the basement of the home where he skins and cuts up fox’s and other animals. He sells them to bigger companies known as “Hudson’s Bay Company or the Montreal Fur Traders”. The young girl works small jobs like “I helped my father when he cut the long grass, and the lamb’s quarter and flowering money-musk…” for her father and really enjoys this type of work. She says, “I found it reassuringly seasonal, like the smell of oranges and pine needles”, she finds the smell of the cut-up animals reassuring on their own. She always watched the things he did and often goes into great detail explaining them throughout the story. She says, “I worked willingly under his eyes, and with a feeling of pride”. Her father had introduced her to his new feed sales man as “my new hired man”. The praise from her father excites her. She feels comfortable working with her father unlike her mother who regularly states her disapproval for this type of work saying “. Her mother insists that she be more of a lady and encourages her to do the type of work women are told to do. She disliked her mothers work sating “I hated the hot dark kitchen in the summer, the green blinds and the flypapers, the same old oil cloth table and wavy mirror and bumpy linoleum”. She thinks of her mother as a person that cannot be trusted, she thinks that her mother is plotting “…to get me to stay in the house more, although she knew that I hated it.”. Her younger brother, Larid also worked alongside their father. The girl paid no mind to mother’s comments and thought the work her mother did was boring.

Women are supposed to have certain tasks as do men. The girl is too young to understand these roles. The grandmother insists that she know better. She said to the girl “Throughout the short story we see the girl transition into the roles of society. She has dreams about being a hero and saving others. But as the story comes to an end her dreams have shifted dramatically, she is now the one in need of saving. She begins unconsciously go through changes within herself. She adds lace to room to distinguish her side from Larids. This allows her to gain control of her room, she mentioned in the beginning “We were afraid of inside the room where slept”. This was something she had paid no mind to and now all of a sudden things are different, she was no longer bothered by her room.

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