Lives of Girls and Women Essay - Critical Essays

Alice Munro

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Lives of Girls and Women Analysis

Lives of Girls and Women is a rich and detailed depiction of a girl’s coming-of-age and her coming to terms with her community. Subthemes illustrate the limited gender roles for young women, the power of adolescent sensuality, and the difficulties of accepting death and inevitable decay. The power of this novel lies in Del’s stubborn refusal to be cowed by these daunting unknowns. She is a protagonist who rejects stereotypical views of girls as fragile and easily damaged. This novel of initiation insists that all adolescents can pick and choose from life’s lessons and face the future with confidence.

The major subject of the novel is the challenge for girls to create a healthy identity from the mixed messages of adult behavior. Fortunately, Del is a fearless, independent pioneer who plunges into unknown worlds with open eyes. As Del matures, she discovers that circumstances and intellectual and physical maturity will provide new challenges. Throughout this daunting period of blindly plunging into new experiences armed only with fragmented knowledge, her goal remains the same: to maintain a sense of self and continue to grow—even if this means she bangs heads with those around her.

Shrugging off the dreamy, ethereal haze of typical female coming-of-age novels, Lives of Girls and Women looks straight ahead at the realities of Del’s environment. Del sees both the richness of the natural world of her father’s fox farm and the killing of animals that sustains it. She sees both the inspiration of church hymns and the failure of theology to fill the voids in empty lives. She notes both the optimism of her mother and her teachers and the harsh reality...

(The entire section is 693 words.)