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Boys and Girls
Alice Munro\'s short story, "Boys and Girls," has a very interesting detail written into it. The narrator\'s brother is named Laird, which was carefully chosen by the author. Laird is a synonym for lord, which plays a important role in a story where a young girl has society\'s unwritten rules forced upon her. At the time of the story, society did not consider men and women equal. The name symbolized how the male child was superior in the parents eyes and in general. Along with that, the name also symbolizes the difference between the sexes when this story took place.
The time when this story took place was a time when men and women were not equal. Mothers had traditional roles, which usually left them in the house, while men also had their roles, outside of the house. The male was the dominant figure in the house, while the woman had to be subservient.
It was an off thing to see my mother down at the barn. She did not often come out of the house unless it was to do something - hang out the wash or dig potatoes in the garden. She looked out of place, with her bare lumpy legs, not touched by the sun, her apron still on and damp across the stomach from the supper dishes.1
The narrator had problems coming to terms with the role in life that she was expected to lead. She wanted to work outside with her father doing the work that she deemed important. The mother tried to get the narrator to work inside doing work deemed appropriate for a lady, however it was not something she enjoyed. "I hated the hot dark kitchen in the summer" (p. 530). The narrator was not considered of any consequential help to her father, simply because she was female.
"Could of fooled me," said the salesman. "I thought it was only a girl" (p. 529). Even though the narrator could do more work than her younger brother, she was still under appreciated. "Wait till Laird gets a little bigger, then you\'ll have a real help" (p. 530). Laird, on the other hand, was able to go out and do the things that he enjoyed. When Flora, the family\'s horse, runs away Laird is invited to join the father and his assistant to re-capture the horse, while the narrator must stay at home.
When the narrator is reminiscing of the past, she recalls a time when she lured Laird up to the top of the barn. The whole purpose of this idea was to get Laird in trouble. However, when her parents come and remove Laird from danger, they are actually mad at her, instead of Laird. This shows how the parents were more concerned with their son and that he could do no wrong. This reflects society\'s notion at the time, how men were always right.
My father came, my mother came, my father went up the ladder talking very quietly and brought Laird down under his arm, at which my mother leaned against the ladder and began to cry. They said to me, "Why weren\'t you watching him?" (p. 534)
The grandmother is the best example of how women were thought of at the time. She is from a time when there were even stricter rules of conduct for girls. The narrator\'s parents are more lackadaisical than the grandmother and a lot less out-spoken. She voices what was taught to her when she was a child. At the time of the story, girls were expected to be dainty and quaint, while a man was expected to be the rough and tumble one.
"Girls don\'t slam doors like that." "Girls keep their knees together when they sit down." And worse still, when I asked some questions, "That\'s none of girls\' business." I continued to slam the doors and sit as awkwardly as possible, thinking that by such measures I kept myself free. (p. 532)
The narrator, however, did not keep her self free. Eventually, she began to change and to become a stereotypical female. She began to conform to society\'s idea\'s about women.
Near the end of the story, Laird starts to realize his sex-determined superiority. He explains
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Boys and Girls, Girls, In Search of Lost Time
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