Boys and Girls

How does Alice Munro use imagery in Boys and Girls?

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When a writer makes an "allusion" within a story, he or she refers to a well-known event or thing that is supposed to conjure up associations that are relevant to what is going on in the story. In saying that her father's favorite book is Robinson Crusoe, Munro, via the narrator, has made an important allusion in her story. This novel by Daniel Defoe is about a man who, on a colonial venture from England to South America, is shipwrecked and becomes the only survivor washed up on an island off the South American coast. Finding he cannot build a seaworthy vessel to contend with the surrounding coast and sea with the implements he has at his disposal (which he either saves from the sunken ship or makes himself), Crusoe goes about building himself a home and a farm and taming and grooming his environment to his purposes. He spends many years alone. Eventually, he witnesses a group of South American Indians land on his island and prepare to kill a hostage from another tribe they have taken in war. Crusoe saves this unfortunate Indian and then the book goes on to depict an idealized relation between the two men in which the Indian, in profound gratitude, willingly and happily submits to Crusoe and becomes his slave. Crusoe dubs the Indian "Friday" to commemorate the day he saved him, and the day he received a companion, for he has been very lonely. Contemporary critics, not surprisingly, have read this last portion of De-foe's book as the dreamy wishes of a European man who imagined that the natives of colonized lands greeted their demise or bondage with little dismay or resentment. Like the fur company's calendar, Defoe's book idealizes the history of colonialism, to the clear benefit of those who had the upper hand. By linking this book to her father within a story that contests women's secondary status to men, Munro aligns Crusoe to her father and herself to Friday. Like Crusoe, she suggests, her father does not recognize that she does not accept her inferior social status.

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Boys and Girls