Literature contains many different themes. There are themes that are very common, such as man vs. nature, man vs. an individual, overcoming adversity, life, death, and growth and initiation. Alice Munro wrote a short fictional story entitled, “Boys and Girls,” which contains a very common literary theme. This paper will detail the strategies used by Alice Munro to convey her idea and theme, along with my personal experience in relation to this theme.
Boys and Girls is a coming-of-age tale of a young girl and her journey through her childhood. The author uses a narrative strategy to take the reader through a tale of a girl who starts out relating more to her father and trying to avoid the womanly tasks of the home. She tries to be whatever her father wants her to be by helping out on the farm and helping with the horses. Her mother tries to steal her away to do mundane household chores, but the girl runs away the moment the mother’s back is turned. The mother even is overheard saying to the father that it is as if she does not even have a girl in the home. The author follows the theme of growth and initiation, where a boy and a girl must go through a trial or a series of trials before maturing, and womanhood is defined by a series of events one must go through.
In this story, the girl is a becoming a woman whether she wants to or not. She describes dreams and ideas she has that are changing. She and her brother used to tell each other daring stories where they rescued many people from awful occurrences, but as her heart and mind are changing over, she describes it in this way, “A story might start off in the old way…and for a while I might rescue people; then things would change around, and instead, somebody would be rescuing me.” ( Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2011, p. 780).
This little girl wants desperately to be the favorite to her father. I can relate to this very much. I am the oldest, and my dad had only girls. For a while, he tried to see if any of the things he would have done with a boy would take with me. I played softball, went fishing, boating and camping with him. He would take me on bike rides to the park, and he would come along with me to school camps, even though he had to room with the boys and me with the girls. But there came a time when none of those things sounded like fun to me anymore, and our relationship changed. The same thing happened in this story. The author showed us the exact time everything changed for good when the family was told that the horse had been let out of the fence on purpose. The girl had been unable to be the one responsible for getting the horse killed, even though she knew it would happen anyway. Her father, resigned to the fate of their relationship, said, “Never mind…she is only a girl.” ( Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2011, p. 781).
One inference that I made from this story is that the relationship between the girl and her father changed from that point. I know from my own experience that once a father realizes that he has a little girl and not a little boy; the relationship will change right before puberty. I think at that point it makes it easier for a father to let his little girl go when she is married.
I got the impression from reading this story that the author has had this happen in her life. The character is so believable and it is something most girls that are close to their fathers have gone through. I read over again the part about the changing relationship with the younger brother, when he takes her place doing work with her father. The same thing happened to me with my cousins. I have a younger male cousin and as soon as he could help with the motor home, he took my place in getting everything set up, and I remember feeling the same way, and not wanting that to happen. Of course, years later, I enjoyed not having to do the hard labor in the hot Arizona sun.
It seems the author was writing this story to all young girls who, like the girl in the story, had dreams of being one of the boys with their fathers. These girls; at one time their father’s right hand, could not avoid the changes that came from nature. They end up on opposite sides of the spectrum, not understanding each other very well.