Boys and Girls Analysis

Style and Technique (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Munro writes stories about everyday people and ordinary events that trigger flashes of insight. Here the narrator is unnamed, possibly because her identity is determined so fully by her gender. Interestingly, her brother’s name, Laird (a Scottish word for “lord”), also reveals his status in a sexist society. Other small details reveal Munro’s vision of the splits between men and women, nature and civilization, and wealth and poverty. The “heroic” calendars on the wall depict noble savages exploited by whites, Henry sings a racist song, and wealthy women who are far away will wear the furs that are bought with the deaths of the foxes and horses.

Munro’s tone is ironic and deliberately deflationary. At first her narrator has grand dreams of action, heroism, and acclaim, but later the daydreams show her as a passive beneficiary of someone else’s heroism. These differing fantasy roles show the strict split between the genders. Similarly, the repetition of the phrase “only a girl” shows how society puts an imaginative and energetic girl firmly in her place. The story’s coming-of-age theme uses several traditional symbols. The horses, representing the freedom and independence with which the girl identifies, are callously killed; the “inside” domestic world is stifling, while the “outside” world of nature is harsh.

The girl tells her own story but leaves many events to the interpretation of the reader. She begins by...

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Boys and Girls Historical Context

Feminism and Social Change
The year the short story collection Dance of the Happy Shades, which includes...

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Boys and Girls Literary Style

Allusion
When a writer makes an ‘‘allusion’’ within a story, he or she refers to a well-known event or thing...

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Boys and Girls Compare and Contrast

1960s and 1970s: In Canada (as in the United States and other locales), the Women’s Movement flourishes and establishes...

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Boys and Girls Topics for Further Study

The narrator’s father is in the fur trade in this story, as were many Canadians. Research the history of the Canadian fur trade. Which...

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Boys and Girls What Do I Read Next?

Lives of Girls and Women (1971), Alice Munro’s second published book is, like ‘‘Boys and Girls,’’...

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Boys and Girls Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Blodgett, E. D. Alice Munro, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

Busch, Frederick. Review of...

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Boys and Girls Bibliography (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Franzen, Jonathan. “Alice’s Wonderland.” The New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2004, 1, 14-16.

Howells, Coral Ann. Alice Munro. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1998.

McCulloch, Jeanne, and Mona Simpson. “The Art of Fiction CXXXVII.” Paris Review 131 (Summer, 1994): 226-264.

Moore, Lorrie. “Leave Them and Love Them.” The Atlantic Monthly 294, no. 5 (December, 2004): 125.

Munro, Sheila. Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.

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(The entire section is 86 words.)