Gender roles are a delicate and controversial matter and easily have been one of the most debated upon topics since the beginning of time. When did they start? When will they end? How young are you when they start? These are all questions that have been asked numerous sociologists trying to figure out this aged question. Alice Munro depicts a minute aspect of a young girl’s life growing up already struggling with the gender role conflict, even at her young age. This story takes place on a small farm back in the 1930s, when women hardly had any rights, whether it was in the house or out. The men were the dominant gender no matter what the issue was. Any reader could easily tell that this family was very tight with their money, as many families were back in that day of age. The father had a manual labor job skinning fox for the pelts and the mother had the typical house wife details. At first, I believed that the narrator was going to grow up as a tomboy but as the story went on my thoughts began to evolve just as the story did.
Munro slowly but surely changed the theme into a time of struggle for the young female growing up on her father’s farm. I followed this story very easily because I had an older sister and she took most of the boyish tasks on the farm until I began to grow older and stronger just as Laird (the younger brother in the story) did. I found it interesting that Laird is known as “lord” and that many males were considered lords back in this time frame. “Wait till Laird gets bigger, then you’ll have real help” (Munro, 2011). To this day I could almost hear those exact words come out of my mother’s mouth when we were growing up. This story began with the narrator taking on most of the outside tasks with the father. Whether she was just helping him give water to the animals in the pens or cutting the grass. Just in the short timeframe of this story, you could see already that the roles were going to very soon be changing.
The reader could almost feel the timeline when the outspoken grandmother comes into the story and begins to preach at the narrator and how un-ladylike she was being. “Girls don’t slam doors like that.” “Girls keep their knees together when they sit down” (Munro, 2011). The very blunt grandmother didn’t hold back correcting her because this was probably the way she was taught when she was a young lady. This was something that was harped upon much more than it is today. A woman wouldn’t think of doing anything outside, unless it was garden work or just to go fetch some milk or water. The female rules of conduct were adhered to much more back in this time frame than any female today could even imagine upon. One would say that Munro almost was writing a partial biography. She gets so into the character of the young girl growing up dealing with all of this that it makes you feel like it is herself that she is writing about.
The way she described helping her father outside doing the men’s work, the way she described how she would run outside as soon as her kitchen duties were done and how she described her mother’s legs and attire. “Bare, lumpy legs not touched by the sun, still with an apron on dampened by the supper dishes” (Munro, 2011, p. 775). The narrator made you believe that she never wanted to be like that. The quote that summed up this story for me just happened to be at the very end. “She’s just a girl” (Munro, 2011). This quote can be taken many different ways if you think about it from the different points of view from all the characters in the story.
This is how I pictured it. From the mother: We’ll he is right, she is just a girl. From the son: Yea dad! Way to take my side again! From the daughter: O, man. How long is this going to go on for? Anyone could read this story and find somehow of relating to it but it probably sunk in more so if you grew up in that time line or were a young female growing up with an older brother. I believe that her purpose and what I inferred from this was her trying to portray how difficult it really was for not only just young females growing up in this time frame but also for females in general. Maybe she did or didn’t have a hard time growing up but this story definitely made the reader feel as if she did.
Munro, A. (2011). “Boys and Girls.” Literature for Composition, (9th ed.)