Wild Horses Essay, Research Paper
Alice Munro has a history of writing stories that demonstrate the changing and shifting
of relationships in a world perceived as chaotic and unforgiving. “Boys and Girls” is no
different. This story isn’t merely about a girl watching a horse die. This is about a girl
fast approaching her adolescence, and her inability to cope at first.
We never learn her name, but the girl in this story has her major conflict in her role in
the family and how she is supposed to act. The first clue that this is a problem occurs in
paragraph 22, where we learn that the grandmother has certain expectations for “girls”.
These include not slamming doors and keeping knees together while sitting. The girl tries
to preserve her “freedom” by slamming doors and sitting awkwardly as often as possible.
This reasoning of girls acting in a certain fashion is emphasized in other places in the
story as well. In paragraph 10, she contrasts her parents and how they relate to her while
they work together. This demonstrates the vast differences in how the adults deal with the
children in their household.
More evidence of this is in paragraph 12, where the girl voices her surprise at seeing
her mother out at the barn. This proves that there are two distinctive roles in the home,
and that they are very different. The message here is that the mother is seldom seen
outside the kitchen. We read about conversations between the mother and daughter, and
they all take place in the kitchen.
More examples of stereotypes in their family is in paragraph 16, where the mother is
discussing the way the girl is always helping the father instead of her. She explains that
every time she turns around, the girl has run off. She made a comment that sometimes it
doesn’t even seem like there is a little girl in the family at all. This shows how
uncomfortable the mother is with having a tomboy as a daughter.
We get the impression that the girl enjoyed and took pride in defying the female
stereotype. An example of this is in paragraph 10, where she talks about her father calling
her the “hired man”. She was proud that her father thought she was good enough to
deserve the title. Her father made her feel shy and unsure of herself, and praise from him
made her very proud.
There is one major example of symbolism in this story. In paragraph 20, this is
illustrated by the relationship of the two ill-fated horses. They are meant to be
slaughtered and fed to the foxes. The male horse is an easy-to-manage workhorse who is
very calm. The female horse would startle easy, was violent, and would kick at anyone
who tried to get in her stall. In my opinion, the disposition of the two horses demonstrate
the ways that the two genders transform into young adults. This is especially true if you
remember that this is a female author. Boys usually seem to have an easier transition
while girls, especially tomboys, fight and struggle to stay who they want to be, but
always eventually lose out to Mother Nature.
The character constantly struggles between who she is, who she wants to be, and who
she is becoming. In paragraph 38, there is dialogue where she puts up a front to her
brother, Laird, as well as her father. She even sets her brother up to get in trouble
knowing that she will get scolded as well, just so she won’t have to worry about anyone
noticing her distress about watching the horse die. She doesn’t want anyone to know she
has all the inner conflict with her emotions.
She knows by the way her father talks to her and her mother that if she starts to
“soften” and act “girlie” that he will begin to treat her differently. She isn’t sure she
wants that to happen.
The scene where she lets the horse off their property is very symbolic. I think she let
the horse out in a last futile attempt to give the horse her freedom. Even if it was
temporary, she thought it was important. She couldn’t have hers, but she could at least
give the horse a few hours free of gender stereotypes and the roles of conformity in her
In the conclusion of this story, the brother tells on her, stating that it was her fault the
horse got away. This is in paragraph 64, and her father’s reaction is very calm. He knew
at some point he was going to have to deal with the girl’s growing up. He had been
expecting it, and wrote it off with the comment, “She’s only a girl.” In the next
paragraph, she finally accepted that statement to be true, and came to terms with herself.
The fact that this story was written by a woman might make it seem a little biased to
men. Their adolescence may have been just as torturous as women perceive theirs to be.
The point of view in this story might help the opposite sex to understand some traits
In closing, the symbolism in this story is what really makes the point clear. This story
was about a girl’s conflict with the changes in her body and emotions, interpreted through
the horses’ actions and the scenes between characters.