Boys and Girls

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro (1968). You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Alice Munro (b. 1931) is a Canadian short story writer. She grew up in Wingham, Ontario, where her father was a fox and minx farmer, and her mother was a schoolteacher. The short story “Boys and Girls” was included in Munro’s first short story collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, published in 1968. Munro has won several notable awards for her work, such as the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 for her lifetime of work, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Social setting

The social setting in “Boys and Girls” explores gender roles.

The mother works inside the house, while the father works outside. It is the mother’s job to take care of the house and prepare the food, and it is the father’s job to look after the foxes and pelt them. The father also performs other outdoor activities, such as cutting the grass. The narrator notes that their attitude while working is also different. While the father “did not talk to me unless it was about the job we were doing” (p. 2, l. 34), the mother “would tell me all sorts of things” (p. 2, l. 35).

The story also explores the attitude of other people towards gender roles. For instance, when the narrator helps her father rake the grass, the father jokingly introduces her to a salesman as “ ‘my new hired hand’ ” (p. 2, l. 4). This makes the narrator feel very proud ,but the salesman’s remark is dismissive: “ ‘Could of fooled me (…) I thought it was only a girl.’ ” (p. 2, l. 5). In this way, the narrator learns that a girl is not expected to do this kind of work, and that people look down on her for trying to fit into a man’s world.

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Boys and Girls

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