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.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Feminism and Social Change
The year the short story collection Dance of the Happy Shades, which includes...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

When a writer makes an ‘‘allusion’’ within a story, he or she refers to a well-known event or thing...

(The entire section is 572 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1960s and 1970s: In Canada (as in the United States and other locales), the Women’s Movement flourishes and establishes...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

The narrator’s father is in the fur trade in this story, as were many Canadians. Research the history of the Canadian fur trade. Which...

(The entire section is 249 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Lives of Girls and Women (1971), Alice Munro’s second published book is, like ‘‘Boys and Girls,’’...

(The entire section is 167 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Blodgett, E. D. Alice Munro, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

Busch, Frederick. Review of...

(The entire section is 312 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Franzen, Jonathan. “Alice’s Wonderland.” The New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2004, 1, 14-16.

Howells, Coral Ann. Alice Munro. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1998.

McCulloch, Jeanne, and Mona Simpson. “The Art of Fiction CXXXVII.” Paris Review 131 (Summer, 1994): 226-264.

Moore, Lorrie. “Leave Them and Love Them.” The Atlantic Monthly 294, no. 5 (December, 2004): 125.

Munro, Sheila. Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.

Ross, Catherine Sheldrick. Alice Munro: A Double Life. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992.

Simpson, Mona. “A Quiet Genius.” The Atlantic Monthly 288, no. 5 (December, 2001): 126.