The short story by Alice Munro belongs to the collection of works “Dance of the Happy Shades” and is entitled “Boys and Girls”. It is written from the female perspective that makes it original, as the writers more often turn to description of the world with the eyes of men, the type of story dealing with girls world-view is less common. However, it appears to be remarkably interesting to trace the changes that occur in the mind of the female narrator, as she describes the events from childhood with youthful viewpoint. This makes her descriptions of life filled with social prejudice where women are often inferior to men are true to life and dynamic due to Munro’s irony. The example can be made as Munro describes the female narrator being harsh and at times wild and at the same time shows her reverent attitude to her appearance.
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Besides the feminist theme of the short story and a strife for freedom in the society that lived according to the unwritten rules where men always dominated, it can be noticed that there unfolds a common family drama in all the complexity of human relations in terms of which the generation gap comes to the scene. Moreover, the situation is aggravated as the narrator overcomes transitional period in her life, the girl leaves her childhood and enters her adulthood.
The alternations are demonstrated in the narrator’s attitude to life, parents, new responsibilities and expectations. She reasons feeling the inner changes as well as the status’ changes within the relatively short period of her life: “The word girl had formerly seemed to me innocent and unburdened like the word child; now it appeared that it was no such thing. A girl wasâ€¦ what I had to become. It was a definition, always touched with emphasis, with reproach and disappointment”. The social position of a woman is clearly seen on the example of the girl’s mother that, by the way, along with her father plays a considerable role in the storyline.
Ex facte parents seem to be perfect and provide their children with everything necessary for their development. The narrator’s father is shown as readers get to know about the family business that is shouldered on the householder. Munro portrays him as a man in the know who is “tirelessly inventive” in making a world for his horses, the pelting operation that included killing, skinning, furs preparation that was accompanied with a distinctive seasonal smell. It created an atmosphere that was predetermined by the family business. Father looked forward to his daughter become a helping hand for the whole family as she grows up, he treats her with respect and flatters calling her “a new hired hand”.
As the narrator obeys her father, appreciates his wisdom and industry, she feels his role in her upbringing, one day she, however, contrives to disobey him. The girl does not know the reason of her deed but she opens the gate wide instead of shutting it as her father asks and the horse gallops away. She fears to lose his trust that is important for her, but “she did not regret”. Trying to conceal her fault was vain as her younger brother Laird gives her away. Father is wise enough to be quite and speaks with resignation dropping only several words: “She’s only a girl”. Earlier they would strike her like a thunder, but it turned out that she grew up, something changed in her forever and she got rid of her childhood fears and habits, the girl was turning into a woman, revealing her female nature, hence, she said: “I didn’t protest that, even in my heart”.
The girl’s mother that is contrasted to father seems to be more friendly towards her daughter, “if she was feeling cheerfulâ€¦she could tell all sorts of things”, while her father “didn’t talkâ€¦unless it was about the job” they did. The girl was shy about her father and did not ask him questions, but worked willingly “under his eyes” and was proud of that.
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The girl tells of her mixed feeling towards mother, she feels the pressure and hurries to leave the house before mother gives her another task to do, in turn mother blames her for not helping about the house. Mother seems too preoccupied with her housework, though it may be also regarded as lack of attention and care for her children who were needed mainly as a helping hand for the endless work in the house. Mother denounced her daughter’s actions and often talked to her in a “dead-quiet regretful way” and she was always plotting striving to keep the girl inside the house, exercising her power. This resulted in the child’s rebellion, her obstinacy as the narrator tried to keep herself free from the unwritten rules of the society as well as total control of her actions.
Despite mother was, according to the girl, “kinder than father and more easily fooled, but you couldn’t depend on her”, as she showed that she did not know about the way things really were. Mother did not seem so dear to the heart of the girl as father was, numerously proving his humaneness and love, in spite of the cruelty he had to resort to in everyday life.
Readers are shown the stereotypical farm life in Canada, but the characters revive on the pages of the story and readers witness all the transformation they undergo, may judge about their life, actions and motives, sympathize and condemn them.
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