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“Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro

The story by Munro, “Boys and Girls,” is good. Although it tells of almost everyday things done by ordinary people in a typical family, it carries a more profound meaning brought out by exciting events in the lives of the laird and his sister. The whole story is a metaphor for the human world and presents the theme of male domination. In a bid to explain her trapped situation, the narrator uses a horse named Flora, whom she tries to save. The spaces used by the boy and the girl are also metaphorically presented to show gender discrepancies. The barn represents masculinity, while the home represents femininity. Key characters are positioned in space to charge the areas with meaning and thematic message on male chauvinism. The three characteristics, namely verisimilitude, thematic message, and beautiful imagination, are the primary characteristics that make the story “Boys and Girls” by Munro a good story.

Verisimilitude is one feature that makes the story “Boys and Girls” a good story. The story’s plot is very realistic and allows the reader to create a vivid mental picture of whatever goes on in the story. As the story unfolds, the narrator explains the relationship between her brother and her parents. The family is just a typical family that engages in daily activities, and nothing is exaggerated in their everyday life. The narrator also narrates the struggles she underwent as a girl and was expected to be responsible and adhere to societal expectations. When she asked questions, she was answered, “that’s none of girls’ business.” (Munro 6). Laird sings himself to sleep while the narrator mostly lives in a fantasy world where she thinks herself a hero. The two children grow up watching their parents as their role models, but as they grow, they realize that they are losing their innocence and that the parents are becoming strict in how they are supposed to behave. The narrator prefers to be like her father, who was reserved and focused on work, then her mother, who would always ramble about the narrator’s dressing and behavior. The setting represents an average family with typical struggles, which allows the audience to relate to their lives, making the verisimilitude of the story appealing.

“Boys and Girls” is a good story because it carries thematic weight. The brother to the narrator is named “Laird,” which is a synonym for Lord. The author carefully chooses the name to show the position given to the males in a society where men and women were not considered equal. The male child was given a special place in society and the parents’ eyes. Women were expected to be submissive and unconcerned with issues outside of the home. The narrator says that it was unusual for her mother to visit the barn and that she did not leave the house unless she was doing something like digging potatoes or hanging out the wash (Munro 4)). The narrator tells of she hated the work that her mother forced her to do and deemed it appropriate for a lady. Instead, she loved working outside with her father, and although she worked harder than her brother, she was still underappreciated; “I hated the hot dark kitchen in the summer” (Munro 4). Even the mother is seen supporting the superior male position as she says, “Wait till Laird gets a little bigger, then you’ll have a real help” (Munroe 4). This statement from the mother meant that the lady was not good enough to offer a natural helping hand to her father at work.

Munro also gives her story an imagined beauty that brings out the thematic message interestingly. The whole story is a metaphor. The narrator starts by saying that her father was a fox farmer. She then describes the gruesome work involved in the farming of foxes and notes that such work disgusted her mother (Munro 1). The story’s message is concerned with male chauvinism as the narrator is growing and struggling with her identity. But the author fetches the idea of fox farming and characters who feel positions that express the different treatment given to males and females in that society. The narrator even interacts with the family horse, which the audience learns represents the trapped situation that the narrator was in and how she struggled to free herself from archaic beliefs of her society that males are superior to females. Laird is allowed to do whatever he pleases, while the narrator is forced to do things associated with women and feminism at the time. Although the author could have plainly used human beings in a normal human situation to pass the message on male chauvinism, she chose to use a fox farmer and young family to show vividly how real the message is, and that is creativity and beautiful imagination.

O’Brien would find Munro’s story “Boys and Girls” interesting because it has verisimilitude and thus presents a realistic setting and plot. It also carries a thematic message (male chauvinism), and therefore the readers will have reason enough to read and analyze the story. The story is also creatively crafted into a metaphor that brings out the author’s imagined beauty of the story. When reading it, the reader finds it interesting to relate the everyday activities of this family and realize how regular duties of family members and reactions towards each other define our different spaces, which most of the time discriminate the female gender.

Work cited

Munro, Alice. Boys and Girls. 1968.


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