In Alice Munro’s short story “Boys and Girls”, depicts society’s expectation of gender roles through the cynical tone, and how there is no escape from the stereotypes society places on women from the dark imagery. Throughout the story the tone expresses the pressure that women feel while trying to conform to society’s expected image, which resists them from discovering their own identity. While describing the setting, the narrator says that the “cold blue sky and black pine forests and treacherous northern rivers” (Munro 1). The cold blue sky” “black” “treacherous” creates a dark mood/tone and establishes a tone of austerity. The dark tone that Munro sets foreshadows the physical or emotional dangers for the protagonist later on in the story. Also, the young girl’s grandmother represents how society thin. Girls don't slam doors like that.' 'Girls keep their knees together when they sit down” (Munro 5). The protagonist’s grandma represents society, and society’s expectation of women. The aggressive tone used by the grandma portrays that society expects women to act a certain way, while boys are able to do what they want. Lastly, the phrase “She’s only a girl” (Munro 10) is repeated throughout the story. The strict repetition of the phrase indicates that no matter what she does, society is pressuring her to become someone that she is not. By making her think that she is nothing more than “a girl”. Society is putting an imaginative and energetic girl in her place, instead of who she really is.
The pieces of imagery in Munro’s story creates a clear picture on how society degrades women, and that they are physically and emotionally trapped wherever they go. The young girl stumbles onto her father’s collection of foxes says “My father removed the pelt inside-out from the body of the fox, which looked surprisingly small, mean, and rat-like, deprived of its arrogant weight of fur” (Munro 1). The foxes represent how women are trapped within their gender roles, there is no way to escape. They are stripped from who they are by society. The foxes are held in cages and cannot be free to be themselves just like women. Additionally, while the young girl is trying to find her true identity I hated the hot dark kitchen in summer, the green blinds and the flypapers, the same old oilcloth table and wavy mirror and bumpy linoleum” (Munro 3). The protagonist hated working inside, usually working inside is the women’s job. This shows that she is trying to find her own identity. She does not want to be a woman that society forces her to be. Lastly, “When she came running at me I held the gate open, that was the only thing I could do” (Munro 9). Flora symbolizes freedom, when the protagonist lets Flora go that symbolizes her desire for freedom and escape from the farm. The protagonist’s horse, Flora symbolizes freedom. When the protagonist lets Flora go that symbolizes her desire for freedom and escape from the farm. Flora running out of the gate illustrates a picture for the reader about freedom, and being trapped. Outside of her life she wishes to be free from the limitations of societal gender roles.
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