What is symbolism in Boys and Girls?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The workings of the farm where the little girl lives and on which her family works could be said to symbolize the rigidity of gender roles. This is a place where everyone has a specific function: the men work around the farm, and the women keep house. When the girl...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The workings of the farm where the little girl lives and on which her family works could be said to symbolize the rigidity of gender roles. This is a place where everyone has a specific function: the men work around the farm, and the women keep house. When the girl leaves open the gate to help the horse escape she's effectively challenging this division of labor. By releasing the creature she's showing that it's possible for females to have an impact round the farm.

The reaction of the father to his daughter's tears, when he says that this shows that she's "only a girl," is further confirmation that the farm is a microcosm of the outside world, where men are men and women are expected to be soft and feminine.

The foxes and the kennel in which they live on the farm could be said to symbolize masculinity, or rather the toxic version of masculinity on display at the farm. The girl's family makes its living off these foxes by breeding them for fur. But beneath their beautiful fur they're pretty unpleasant creatures. The girl's mother hates the smell of pelting when it goes on in the house. This could be said to symbolize the unwelcome invasion of what is distinctively male—the business of fox-breeding—into the domestic, female sphere.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team