Boys and Girls by Alice Munro: Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11



Boys and Girls by Alice Munro: Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11
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Boys and Girls by Alice Munro: Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11

Boys and Girls by Alice Munro


Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

This short story, “Boys and Girls," has been written by Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. This story was originally published in 1964 and subsequently in Munro's 1968 collection of short stories, ‘Dance of the Happy Shades,' one of her short story collections. In this story, Munro tells a story concerning a young girl's encounter with womanhood in society, which deals with the making of gender roles and stereotypes.

This story is in first-person narration. It is narrated by an 11-year-old girl who is unnamed here in this story. Though the narrator is just 11 years old, the readers find out a big revelation about gender inequality through her narration.


Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

Here in this story, the narrator (an 11-year-old girl) lives with her father, mother, and younger brother on a farm. According to her, her father is a fox farmer. He breeds silver foxes, and when their fur is at prime, he kills them and sells their pelts (skin or fur) to the Hudson Bay Company or the Montreal Fur Traders.

We get an idea through her revelation that killing, skinning, feeding, and watering are all everyday parts of her family life. Later, we get introduced to the narrator's younger brother, Laird.

During the summer vacations, the narrator always likes to help her father on the farm outside the house instead of helping her mother in the kitchen inside.

She always has thousands of questions to ask while working with her father, but she hesitates to ask him anything because her father doesn't talk much. But while working with her mother, she never feels hesitant to ask her questions.

Once, while working on the farm, her father introduces her to the salesman as the 'new hired hand' and this makes her very happy and proud, as she is always looking forward to her father's praise.

The narrator then continues to describe her mother. She always does the cooking and cleaning work inside the house, so she never cares about her physical appearance. She never combs her hair except by tying it in a bun. She sees that her mother and father work equally throughout the day, inside and outside the house, only that her father's work is given more importance, and she also believes it to be true.

The narrator clearly states that she never enjoys the household tasks that her mother does, who is confined to the kitchen most of the time. But her mother wants her to learn household tasks and often calls her for help.

She often gets annoyed whenever her mother assigns outside farm work to her younger brother and kitchen work to her. It is here that the author has skillfully described the theme of the story. This is how the narrator starts to understand the difference between a girl and a boy.

As the story develops, we get introduced to two horses, Mack and Flora. Mac is an old, dark workhorse, and Flora is a young mare.

During wintertime, the narrator learns the undercurrent of the word 'girl', which she says. “The word girl used to seem to me as innocent and weightless as the word child; now it seems that there is no such thing. A girl was not, as I thought, just what I was; this was what I wanted to be."

She realises this when her grandmother comes to visit her and starts restricting her from doing certain things. She should not talk loudly, should sit properly, etc. And how would she rebel against it and do the exact opposite?

At the time of killing the old horse Mack, the narrator is quite eagerly waiting to see the whole act. But she is prohibited by her father from seeing the killing. She manages to watch the entire episode of the horse's killing by her father. She secretly watches the entire act while accompanying her younger brother, Laird. She is quite courageous enough to digest the whole ruthless act of killing an old horse. She has only fear of her brother's revelation to her father about her secret act. She promises her brother to take him to town for keeping his mouth shut as a bribe.

In the meantime, she also reveals a secret: when Laird was young, she helped him climb on the attic and complained to her parents, and in return, she was the one who got all the scolding for not taking care of his younger brother. This incident showed how it was always her responsibility to take care of her brother, even though she was younger too.

When the father tries to kill the young mare, Flora, the narrator is no longer interested in watching the whole scene again. During the shooting, Flora slips out of her father’s grip. The mare starts running crazily here and there to escape the shooting. Her father sees her near the gate and tells her to close the gate so that the mare can’t escape. But she acts just opposite of her father's command. She lets the horse escape from the farm. She knows that it is of no use, and no matter what she does, she can never save Flora. The only thing she can do by letting the horse out is make it hard for her father to catch it. Maybe she does it because she finds Flora, unlike Mack, who is a young mare and has all the right to live.

Later, at the dinner table, Laird complains about this incident to his parents, and when her father asks her for the reason, she has no reason. Though she doesn’t answer, tears run down her eyes. At this moment, her father says, “She’s only a girl,” and she, after all the fighting, finally thinks maybe she is just a girl after all who could or can do nothing to change her life.


Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

Narrator (girl):

The main character tells the whole story from her point of view. Through the story, we see the character development of this girl, who comes to know the difference between a girl and a boy.



He is the younger brother of the narrator, who is the apple of everyone's eye. At first, we see him as a little boy who obeys his sister all the time, but by the end of the story, we find him against her.


The narrator's father is a very hardworking person. He keeps on working every day, caring for his kids too. He is liked by his kids. He plays the role of a good father. 


The mother of the narrator is also a very hardworking woman who takes good care of her family by cooking and cleaning. She never bothers to take care of herself, and like her husband, she also thinks about her daughter and son.

Henry Bailey: 

Henry Bailey is a farmhand. He is like a part of the narrator's family, sharing food and his life with them. Friendly towards kids too.


Narrator and his family

The main plot mostly revolves around the narrator's family, their everyday lives, and their activities.


Mac, and Flora

The subplot revolves around two horses. Here we need to focus on how Mack and Flora achieved the same result, even though Mack was an older horse and Flora was just a young mare. The author has cleverly linked both the fate and future of Flora and the girl.


 Gender identity:

There are a few instances in which the narrator knows the meaning of the word 'girl'. First, his mother tells him that once his younger brother is old enough, he will help his father.

Secondly, when her grandmother tells her to behave a certain way because she is a girl, in the end, when her father finally says that, after all, she is just a girl, she will definitely cry.

Gender Inequality:

With the same theme, his mother distinguishes between the narrator and his brother.


Boys and Girls by Alice Munro

Understanding the Text:

1. Who is the narrator? What perspective does she have on the events in the story?


The narrator is an 11-year-old girl, unnamed in the story. She provides a first-person perspective, offering insights into her family life, experiences, and the societal expectations placed on her as a girl.

2. Where and when does the story take place?


The story takes place on a farm where the narrator lives with her family. The time period is not explicitly mentioned, but it seems to be during a time when traditional gender roles and stereotypes were prevalent.

3. How did the narrator change when Mack dies?


The death of Mack marks a pivotal moment for the narrator. Witnessing the killing of the old horse makes her confront the harsh realities of life on the farm, prompting a shift in her perception of herself and her role in the family.

4. Why does the narrator assist Flora in her escape?


The narrator assists Flora's escape as a form of rebellion against her father's authority. This act reflects her growing understanding of gender roles and her desire to defy societal expectations placed on her as a girl.

5. Near the end of the story, the narrator chooses to open the gate to let Flora escape. How does this event relate to her own condition?


The narrator, by allowing Flora to escape, symbolically rejects the constraints imposed on her as a girl. It signifies her rebellion against societal expectations and a realization that, like Flora, she wants to break free from predefined roles.

6. Who is the main character in the story? Who are the other characters?


The main character is the unnamed 11-year-old girl who narrates the story. Other significant characters include her father (a fox farmer), her mother, her younger brother Laird, Mack and Flora (the horses), and Henry Bailey (a farmhand).

Reference to the Context:

1. What is the conflict in the story?


The main conflict revolves around the narrator's internal struggle to conform to traditional gender roles and societal expectations imposed on her as a girl.

2. What does the story tell about gender identity in society?


The story sheds light on the societal construction of gender roles, depicting the narrator's evolving understanding of being a girl and the limitations and expectations associated with it.

3. Explain the following extract: What does the narrator mean when she talks about the meaning of the word 'girl'?

The word girl had formerly seemed to me innocent and unburdened like the word child; now it appeared that it was no such thing. A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become.


The narrator reflects on the word 'girl' and its evolving meaning for her. Initially innocent, the word becomes burdened with societal expectations, suggesting that being a girl is not just her current state but a role she must grow into, with predefined duties and restrictions.

Literary Analysis:

1. Which symbols and images do you find in the story? Explain.


Symbols include the horses Mack and Flora, representing maturity and innocence, respectively. The farm and its activities symbolize societal expectations. The open gate symbolizes rebellion and freedom.

2. Which literary devices does Munro use in the story?


Munro uses first-person narration, symbolism, and irony. The first-person perspective provides intimate insights, symbolism enhances thematic elements, and irony is seen in the narrator's rebellious actions against societal norms.

3. How is irony used in the story?


Irony is evident in the narrator's rebellion against traditional gender roles. While her father sees her as "only a girl," her actions defy this perception, revealing the irony in societal expectations versus her actual capabilities.

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  1. It would better to post unit wise solutions.If u will do so we will be teaching easily to based on ur reference note. Wanna thank for this post too.


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