(13/06/2024) עלו היום לאתר 9 סמינריונים 2 תזות 2 מאמרים

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סיכום PENNING IN THE BODIES THE CONSTRUCTION OF GENDERED SUBJECTS IN ALICE MUNRO’S BOYS AND GIRLS

Penning In the Bodies: The Construction of Gendered Subjects in Alice Munro’s Boys and Girls

Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” deals with the shaping of children into gendered adults. The behaviors and roles ascribed to each sex based biological distinction are not natural, and the text treats the construction of gendered subjects as a form of production, a process that is invisible and taken for granted.

 The innocent perspective of the narrator demonstrates how spatial division and control of space enables two production systems: farming and the construction of gendered adults. The “raising” of foxes by the narrator’s father can also allude to raising children, creating a correspondence between the two systems.

The fox “pens” remind the narrator a medieval town “padlocked at night”, an image of confinement that repeats throughout the text. The house and the surrounding environment resemble the pen, reflecting the boundaries created by the father and his role in the cultural project.

Ivan Illich suggests that the capacity to enclose is a male privilege and a key factor in creating the modern industrial society. Dividing labor into a productive and non-productive kind transforms men into “the wardens of their domestic women” and enables capitalist production.

The father’s cellar is brightly-lit and described as “white-washed”, suggesting an attempt to force a clean appearance, undermining the neutrality of the father’s actions. Foucault notes that the use of light is “a form of power whose main instance is that of opinion will refuse to tolerate areas of darkness”.

The commercial basis of the slaying of foxes undercuts its perceived neutrality and connects it to the cultural discourse. The narrator is initially unaware of these implications and feels safe in the male domain. She instead feels threatened by the dark, undifferentiated bedroom she shares with her brother Laird, an unfinished space that reflects the undifferentiated consciousness of the children before they are forced into gender roles.

The narrator’s initial male orientation is expressed in her fantasies, where she envisions herself as a male hero riding a fine horse. However, by the end of the story, her gender role has been established and she can only imagine herself as a victim.

The father calls the narrator his “hired hand”, reflecting their initial alignment. When the children assist in looking after the foxes, the narrator carries her father’s watering can, symbolizing her access to the privilege, status and power associated with the phallus.

While the father’s work outside is considered “ritualistically important”, the mother’s housework is “endless, dreary and peculiarly depressing”, and the relationship between the mother and daughter inside the house resembles that of fellow prisoners, characterized by speech and openness.

Derrida notes that the boundaries that separate inside from outside and culture from nature can only exist if “it is granted that the division between exterior and interior passes through the interior of the interior or the exterior of the exterior”. These arbitrary divisions are symbolized by specific items: In exchange for pelts, the family receives heroic calendars to hang in the kitchen, signifying a connection between the father’s occupation and his role as a producer of gendered subjects.

Placing the calendars on both sides of the kitchen door links the father’s work to the domestic, female sphere. The calendars depict the colonization of the wilderness by male adventurers, linking the opposition between culture and nature to the opposition between male and female.

The natives in the illustrations have been forced into the cultural project. The discourse of production transforms the foxes into “pelts” and the indigenous people into “savages”. The placement of the calendars illustrating the enclosure the feminine wilderness replicates the enclosure of foxes and other family members by the father, again linking the two types of production: farming and the raising of gendered adults.

The narrator’s position on the outside is challenged throughout the text. The father’s hired hand, Henry Bailey, swipes a sack full of skinned foxes at the narrator, and jokingly calls it a “Christmas present”. When the father introduces his daughter to a seed salesman as a hired man, he responds to the threat of female presence by joking: “could have fooled me, I thought it was only a girl”. The grandmother also challenges the narrator’s connection to her father, by trying to regulate her movements and consciousness.

Similarly, the mother crosses the inside-outside boundary and confronts the father in front of the barn, demanding that the girl remain with her inside the house. From her privileged male perspective, the narrator sees this as an expression of tyranny instead of frustration.

Ultimately, the narrator submits to the pressures of culture. The two systems of production are again connected: the butchering of the horses takes place at the same time as the children’s acquisition of gender roles. The process of feeding the foxes on the horses’ bodies resembles the production of gendered subjects.

In order to preserve the white-washed image of her father, the narrator omits the butchering of the horses until the end of the story, believing that this denial would protect her. Henry Bailey reappears with the butchering of the horses, as does the menace in his “joke”.

Bailey keeps a collection of pornographic calendars hidden at the stable, linking the calendars to the colonization of female bodies: the stable serves as a pen for both livestock and Bailey’s pin-up girls. Bailey enjoys the butchering, and when the father is about to shoot the first horse, Mack, he starts singing about “darkies”. Animals, savages and “darkies” are bodies aligned with nature, condemned to death when the discourse of capitalism no longer needs them.

Bailey laughs when the father shoots Mack. The horse’s death has profound impact on the narrator, who recalls Bailey’s laughter and his delight in power based on inequality. The narrator recognizes this as an abuse of power from her own experience: when her brother was “young and obedient”, she told him to climb to the top beam in the barn, a behavior she later regrets.

After killing the horse, the father loses his white-washed innocence. When the men try to shoot the second horse, Flora, the girl breaks from her male orientation and opens the gate “as wide as she could”, thwarting her father’s control of movement across boundaries.

Laird joins the men searching for the horse, and he returns with blood on his arm – the triumph over nature forms a rite of manhood, aligning the boy and his father. The narrator sees this as nothing but a sad charade, where the false distinction between nature and culture is forced upon the weak. She recognizes the hopelessness of the situation by acknowledging that the mare had no chance of escaping.

Laird tells everyone that his sister let the horse escape. She cries, and expects to be sent from the dinner table for her “feminine” behavior. But her behavior is taken for granted. The family now sees her as female, and her father treats her like he treated her mother when she confronted him at the barn, listening politely but eager to continue with his work.

The narrator now realizes that after defying her father “he would know that I was not entirely on his side”, emphasizing the spatial transformation. The narrator becomes “unreal”, and her father seals her fate by naming her, saying: “she’s only a girl”. The daughter accepts the name, and the children take their “rightful” cultural and gendered positions.

It is important to note that the story is told by the mature narrator, whose identity has not been completely fixed by the roles forced on her based on her sex. The tension between the mournful adult and the innocent child implies that she continues to resist the patriarchal system which named her.      

Penning In the Bodies: The Construction of Gendered Subjects in Alice Munro's Boys and Girls

Alice Munro's "Boys and Girls" deals with the shaping of children into gendered adults. The behaviors and roles ascribed to each sex based biological distinction are not natural, and the text treats the construction of gendered subjects as a form of production, a process that is invisible and taken for granted.

 The innocent perspective of the narrator demonstrates how spatial division and control of space enables two production systems: farming and the construction of gendered adults. The "raising" of foxes by the narrator's father can also allude to raising children, creating a correspondence between the two systems.

The fox "pens" remind the narrator a medieval town "padlocked at night", an image of confinement that repeats throughout the text. The house and the surrounding environment resemble the pen, reflecting the boundaries created by the father and his role in the cultural project.

Ivan Illich suggests that the capacity to enclose is a male privilege and a key factor in creating the modern industrial society. Dividing labor into a productive and non-productive kind transforms men into "the wardens of their domestic women" and enables capitalist production.

The father's cellar is brightly-lit and described as "white-washed", suggesting an attempt to force a clean appearance, undermining the neutrality of the father's actions. Foucault notes that the use of light is "a form of power whose main instance is that of opinion will refuse to tolerate areas of darkness".

The commercial basis of the slaying of foxes undercuts its perceived neutrality and connects it to the cultural discourse. The narrator is initially unaware of these implications and feels safe in the male domain. She instead feels threatened by the dark, undifferentiated bedroom she shares with her brother Laird, an unfinished space that reflects the undifferentiated consciousness of the children before they are forced into gender roles.

The narrator's initial male orientation is expressed in her fantasies, where she envisions herself as a male hero riding a fine horse. However, by the end of the...

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