A stereotype is an oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person, group of people or thing. A common one that is around even today is gender stereotypes. The short story “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro is narrated by a young girl who is reflecting back on her childhood when she was challenged greatly by gender norms and had to reconcile expectations with her own identity. The unfairness of gender stereotyping is a prominent theme in this short story.
The female narrator was introduced to such stereotypes from a young age; they were forced upon her through members of the family, slowly changed how she viewed herself and when entering womanhood, had no other choice but to accept them. The narrator was a young girl entering womanhood and through this transition her mother and grandmother had various expectations she was going to have to live up to. They both shared the same views on how a girl should look, act, know and not know.
They forced these views upon the narrator who certainly didn’t appreciate their criticism. The narrator didn’t wish to change who she was simply because of her gender. The mother didn’t accept that though and planned for her daughter to eventually take on more traditional female roles around the house although she rather be outside helping her father. Gender stereotypes the mother and grandmother forced upon the narrator caused her to slowly change how she viewed herself.
In the beginning of short story “Boys and Girls” the narrator imagines herself in adventurous stories in which she would always play the hero. As time passes her character in her stories change from being the heroic figure to being the damsel in distress. In the later stories she also becomes very concerned of how she looks and a boy would always save her. When she was a child she was who she wanted to be and that’s all that mattered-as she entered adulthood, she became who society required her to be. The narrator becoming more girl-like became increasingly evident as time went by.
For example she tries to make her side of the room fancier with lace curtains and wishes to put something up between her brother’s bed and hers so she can have more privacy. By the end of this short story the narrator stops trying to rebel against the stereotypes she faces every day and realizes that accepting them is indeed unfair but ultimately inevitable. When the family found out it was the narrator’s fault Flora (their horse) got out of the yard, the word she hated most came from the mouth of the man she admired the most-“She’s only a girl”, her father said.
That time she heard this she didn’t protest it, not even in her heart. She knew in that moment it was time to conform to the expectations her gender had to live up to. She tried so hard to rebel against the unfair stereotypes being forced upon her through the years but this is the point in which she gave up. Like the horse Flora, a living thing with energy and willpower, the narrator was bound to eventually end up entrapped and used by forces greater than her. The unfairness of gender stereotyping is a prominent theme in this short story.
At a young age the narrator was introduced to such stereotypes. They were forced upon her, caused her to change how she viewed herself as an individual and had no other choice but to accept them when entering the transition between childhood and womanhood. “A girl was not…simply what I was; it was what I had to become” she once said. The narrator didn’t have any other choice but to eventually grow into and accept the gender stereotypes as who she was and all she could become.