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.