Boys and Girls Style and Technique

Alice Munro

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...

(The entire section is 440 words.)