What is a thematic topic in "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro?

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Although gender roles are an integral theme in Munro’s “Boys and Girls ,” the subplot involving the two horses, Mack and Flora, intimates at other subtle yet essential thematic components of the story. In freeing Flora, an animal facing execution in its prime, the narrator is subconsciously reacting to...

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Although gender roles are an integral theme in Munro’s “Boys and Girls,” the subplot involving the two horses, Mack and Flora, intimates at other subtle yet essential thematic components of the story. In freeing Flora, an animal facing execution in its prime, the narrator is subconsciously reacting to the trajectory of her own life. Whether or not she takes action to assist Flora, the adults will inevitably catch up with the horse; its fate is sealed. Likewise, the narrator feels the closing in of her own fate as she grows closer to maturity. The implicit trust she has in her father begins to dissipate as he makes clear his position on her identity and, consequently, her future.

The chasm between the narrator’s potential and her reality, however, is not informed solely by her gender so much as it is informed by duality. This chasm is created by the separation of boy and girl, outside and inside, imagination and reality. The obligations she recognizes as feminine are associated with the indoors, a world that offers limited meaning and potential, whereas the outside world may be imbued with significance and gravity. The narrator cannot identify or empathize with her mother’s work within the dualistic framework that she relies on in order to interpret the world around her. By the end of the story, when she cannot reconcile her need to free Flora with her identity, the polarity of her identity becomes clouded, and she is forced to consider the possibility that her character might have room for discrepancies and multifariousness.

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The main theme of Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” is gender roles and expectations. The unnamed narrator, a girl approaching adolescence but not there yet, lives on a fox farm with her parents and her brother, Laird. Unlike her brother, she loves to help out her father with various farm chores; she much prefers physical, outdoor work to what she sees as the tedious work her mother does inside the house, like canning fruit and preparing meals. When her grandmother visits, she reminds the narrator to be more ladylike.

Another important theme is freedom, and this theme intersects with that of gender roles. The narrator longs to be free from society’s expectations, so when she sees the chance to free a horse from the farm, she takes it, perhaps not even completely understanding why. At the same time, she is starting to take an interest in more traditionally feminine things; in one scene she contemplates how she can make her half of the room that she shares with her brother more pretty. By the end of the story, as the narrator's carefree childhood comes to a close, we realize that the pressure for the narrator to conform to gender norms comes both from outside and from within.

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In Alice Munro's story "Boys and Girls," a central theme is gender roles. Munro sets up a contrast between the roles boys/men and girls/women play in the story. The females are expected to do work in the domestic sphere, like the house and kitchen. The males, on the other hand, are expected to do physical labor and outside work, like the barn and managing the animals. The young girl in the story does not like that she is expected to stay in the domestic sphere once she reaches a certain age and she fights this throughout the story.

In the end, when she lets the horse run out of the gate, she shows that she really is different from the boys/men in the story who would have never let that happen. When her father comes in later after capturing and killing the horse and discovers she let it loose, he says that she is "only a girl." By saying this, he relegates her to the woman's world she's been fighting against all of this time. She finally accepts that she will have to take on women's roles whether she wants to or not.

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