Gender Identity Crisis in Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls
Boys and Girls is the ninth short story contained in Alice Munro’s book Dance of the Happy Shades which comprises of fifteen other short stories. The history is an explanation of events surrounding a young teenage girl living with her family in a rural. The story has its setup in Huron county, Ontario, Canada, and it narrates the challenges that women are undergoing both at home and at work place in a male dominated society.
The author uses the story of the teenage girl and incorporates the native Canadian culture in early 1960s, which is a reflection of other culture across the world during that time. In this culture women are treated as second class citizen whose position is far below that owned by men. Further, duties and responsibilities are divided according to gender whereby women are given lighter duties which involve being in the house doing house chores. On the other hand, men are assigned outdoor duties that are more involving and are income generating. The author uses the story Boys and Girls to bring out the concept of gender identity crisis. It is a situation that occurs when a person of a particular gender tries to associate himself or herself with the opposite one and in the process when he or she faces frustration and challenges. In the case of Boys and Girls, the main character of the story tries to perform duties that are believed to be exclusively men job. She is frustrated by her family members and members of the society who have a predetermined position about who the protagonist should become. Therefore, a crisis occurs where there is an ideology conflict between what the main character wants to become and what the community wants her to do.
The protagonist finds pleasure and satisfaction in helping her father in outdoor duties, she helps in feeding foxes while her mother is indoor doing normal house duties. It is expected by the community that she should be indoor doing women duties. However, to her it seemed that work in the house was endless, dreary, and peculiarly depressing while outdoor is ritualistically important. The protagonist is in need of disputing the notion that women are weaker being by performing duties that are believed to be preserved for men. However, she faces discouragement from her family who in real sense should be a source of encouragement. Her mother in the story complains about not having a girl because of her absence in the house. The community on the other hand is also discouraging her aspiration for equality. In the story, when a sales person visits the farm and finds the protagonist helping her father, he finds it weird and inquires. The father explains that she is his new assistant, but the salesman laughs sarcastically and says that he has thought ‘it was only a girl’ (Munro 72). This is very demoralizing and the protagonist walks away with the broken heart. After that she acknowledges that ‘a girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become’ (Munro 74). However, she continues to fight for a position in a male dominated society.
In conclusion gender identity crisis is a situation that exists due to challenges that occur when a person fights for a position in a society dominated by the opposite gender. This crisis brings about conflict and the birth of lobby groups which advocate for equality and fair representation.
Munro, Alice. Dance of the happy shades. Random House, 2013.