Short Story Analysis and Themes Summary of “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jun 15, Although the power outage was only a temporary matter, it truly brought Shoba and Shukumar together once again. Their relationship had. Dec 6, reveal the pain since the change in the couple's relationship can be seen Instead of addressing the pain, the narrator, Shukumar, discusses the admissions to his wife is that he cheated on a exam in college. This happens again in the short story “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri when Shoba. Oct 5, Husband and wife Shukumar and Shoba The blackouts become the last chance effort to save their relationship. The duo is forced to.
The next day, Shukumar goes to the mailbox and finds a notice that the electric repairs have been completed early. Shukumar is disappointed, but when Shoba arrives home she says, "You can still light the candles if you want.
When Shukumar questions this, she tells him that she has something to tell him and wants him to see her face. He thinks that she is going to tell him that she is pregnant again, and he does not want her to be. She tells him, instead, that she has signed a lease on an apartment for herself.FilterCopy - Every School Romance - ft. Apoorva Arora and Rohan Shah
Shukumar realizes that this revelation has been her planned ending for the game all along. He decides to tell Shoba something he had vowed to himself that he would never tell her. Shoba does not know that Shukumar held their baby at the hospital while she slept.
Shoba does not even know the baby's gender and has said that she is glad that she has no knowledge about the lost child. Shukumar tells Shoba that the baby was a boy and goes on to describe his appearance in detail, including that the baby's hands were closed into fists the way Shoba's are when she sleeps. The two sit at the table together, and each of them cries because of what the other has revealed. Bradford are neighbors of Shoba and Shukumar. Shoba and Shukumar see them walking by, arm in arm, on their way to the bookstore on the second night of the power outage.
The Bradfords seem to be a happily married couple and as such provide a contrast to Shoba and Shukumar. The narrator mentions that the Bradfords placed a sympathy card in Shoba and Shukumar's mailbox when they lost their baby. Shoba and Shukumar see them on the second night of the power outage, and Shukumar sees them again, through the window, on the last evening of the story. The first time the Bradfords appear, Mrs. Bradford asks Shoba and Shukumar if they would like to join her and her husband on their walk to the bookstore, but they decline.
Shoba Shoba is a thirty-three-year-old woman who is married to Shukumar. She is described as tall and broad-shouldered. She seems to have been born in the United States of immigrant parents from India, and she has spent considerable time in India visiting relatives. She and her husband now live in a house outside Boston. Shoba works in the city as a proofreader and also takes on extra projects to do at home.
She works out at a gym regularly.
Six months before the time of the story, Shoba's first child was stillborn. This tragedy has changed her habits and her relationship with her husband. While she was formerly a neat and enthusiastic housekeeper and cook, she has become careless about the house and has stopped cooking. The narrator remarks that she previously had the habit of being prepared for anything, from keeping extra toothbrushes on hand for last-minute guests to stocking the freezer and pantry with homemade Indian delicacies.
Shukumar Shukumar is a thirty-five-year-old doctoral student who is married to Shoba. He is a tall man with a large build. He, too, seems to be an American-born child of Indian immigrants, but he has spent less time in India than Shoba has. Because of the loss of his child six months earlier, Shukumar has been given a semester away from his teaching duties.
He is supposed to use the time to focus on writing his dissertation on agrarian revolts in India. However, Shukumar accomplishes little. He stays in bed until midday, doesn't leave the house for days at a time, and often forgets to brush his teeth. He has spent the past months preparing dinners for himself and Shoba using the foods she has stored in the freezer and pantry.
Themes Grief The story takes place six months after the stillbirth of Shoba and Shukumar's first child, and the two are still overwhelmed by grief. Shukumar has withdrawn from the world and seldom leaves the house.
He stays in bed half the day, unable to summon the energy and concentration to make progress on his dissertation. Shoba, on the other hand, stays away from the house as much as she can.
She used to be an attentive housekeeper and enthusiastic cook, but the house seems to remind her of her loss. According to Shukumar, she treats the house as if it were a hotel and would eat cereal for dinner if he did not cook. The narrator also reveals that Shoba and Shukumar no longer go out socially or entertain at home.
People who suffer the loss of a loved one often go through a period of not wanting to go on living themselves. They may feel unable to make the effort required to go about daily life.
Sadness may drown out all positive emotions. This seems to be true for this couple, and especially of Shukumar. Alienation Shoba and Shukumar's grief has led them to withdraw from each other. Until the nightly power outages began, they avoided each other.
Shoba leaves for work early each morning, returns late, and often brings home extra work to occupy her evenings and weekends.
A Temporary Matter
When Shoba is home, Shukumar retreats to his computer and pretends to work on his dissertation. He has put the computer in the room that was to be the nursery because he knows that Shoba avoids that room.
She comes in briefly each evening to tell him goodnight. He resents even this brief interaction, which Shoba initiates only out of a sense of obligation. Shoba and Shukumar do not attempt to comfort or support each other.
Each withdraws from the relationship, and they endure their grief as if they were two strangers living in a boardinghouse. Deception Through the game that Shoba and Shukumar play of revealing secrets, readers learn that deception has been a theme in their relationship. They have lied to each other, and the lies have been selfish ones—told not to spare the other's feelings but to allow the person telling the lie to escape some discomfort or sacrifice.
To avoid having dinner with Shukumar's mother, Shoba lied and said she had to work late. Shukumar told Shoba that he lost a sweater she had given him, when in reality he returned the sweater and used the money to get drunk.
As these examples of deception are revealed throughout the story, it is clear that Shoba and Shukumar's emotional estrangement began before the loss of their baby.
They have always dealt with difficult situations and unpleasant emotions by lying and keeping secrets. When Shoba breaks the stalemate that their grief has caused by initiating a deceptive game, she is following an established pattern. Throughout the week of power outages, Shoba appears to be reaching out to Shukumar.
In truth, she is engineering her final separation from him. Style Realism through Details Lahiri uses dozens of everyday details to create a realistic context in which the story takes place.
When Shukumar recalls the morning he left for Baltimore, he remembers that the taxicab was red with blue lettering. When he wakes up each morning, he sees Shoba's "long black hairs" on her pillow. The crib in the nursery is made of cherry wood; the changing table is white with mint-green knobs.
Taken together, such details comprise a world that readers find familiar. The realism of the environment makes the characters who live in it and the events that take place in it seem real as well.
Conflicting Clues As the story unfolds, Lahiri provides readers with two conflicting sets of clues as to how it might end. Each evening Shoba and Shukumar seem to draw closer to each other both emotionally and physically. As they share long withheld secrets, they hold hands, kiss, and finally make love. It seems as if ghosts that have haunted their marriage are being exorcised.
Topics for Further Study Shoba recalls visits to her grandmother's house in Calcutta. Do research to learn about living conditions in Calcutta for people at various economic levels. What do you think Shoba's grandmother's house was like? What kinds of memories might Shoba have of her visits there, besides those of power outages? A theme that runs throughout Lahiri's body of work is that of the challenges faced by immigrants and children of immigrants who must strive to meld two cultures in their lives.
Does this theme appear in "A Temporary Matter"? What is your opinion of Shoba and her actions toward Shukumar? Specifically, what do you think of the way she chose to tell Shukumar that she was leaving him? Was she trying to spare his feelings by breaking the news gently, or was she being manipulative and unfair? Do research to learn about the challenges faced by couples who suffer the tragedy of a stillborn child. Shoba and Shukumar's marriage does not survive their loss.
How common is this? What are some other difficulties that such couples may face, and what do medical professionals recommend to help prevent or minimize them? Lahiri included in the story brief descriptions of both Shoba's and Shukumar's mothers. She accomplished this by having the narrator recall a visit from each woman. Why do you think Lahiri included these recollections?
a temporary matter – A Mind for Madness
What do they add to the story? At the same time, the game that appears to be drawing them together also reveals a past filled with deception. Things have not always been as they seemed between these two people. In addition, readers learn early in the story that Shoba has always been one to plan ahead and that she keeps a separate bank account. Readers are left to wonder whether the pattern of deception will be broken or intensified.
The balance seems to shift decisively in favor of a happy ending when, on the fifth evening, the narrator declares, "They had survived a difficult time. But that interpretation is as misleading as Shoba's behavior has been. Readers, like Shukumar, have been given mixed signals and only learn at the end which set of clues was reliable. Indian Americans According to the census, there were nearly 1. This was more than double the figure formaking Indian Americans the fastest-growing group in the nation.
As ofIndian Americans are the third largest group of Asian Americansafter those of Chinese and Filipino origin. Indian Americans are among the best educated and wealthiest of all Americans. Substantial numbers of Indian Americans work in the high-tech industry and also in various engineering and health care occupations.
This is unsurprising given India's strong tradition of education in math and science. In addition, the fact that most Indian immigrants arrive in the United States speaking fluent English is an economic advantage. English is one of the official languages of India, a legacy of its long status as a colony of Britain. As the number of Indian Americans grows, so does their influence on American culture.
Indian foods are increasingly available not only at restaurants—many of them owned by Indian Americans—but also in suburban supermarkets. Many large American cities have at least one Hindu temple.
Tag: a temporary matter
The works of Indian American writers and filmmakers have generally been well received by an American public eager to know more about India and about Indian Americans, who are more and more likely to be among their neighbors and coworkers.
Critical Overview Interpreter of Maladies, the collection in which "A Temporary Matter" appears, won widespread praise from American critics when it appeared. Besides the nearly universal approval bestowed on the book, the most remarkable feature of the criticism is that nearly every reviewer compared Lahiri to one or more literary predecessors and no two reviewers seem to have linked her with the same writers. New York Times Book Review critic Caleb Crain declares that " Samuel Richardson 's latest heir is Jhumpa Lahiri," a reference to Richardson's eighteenth-century novel Pamela in which a household servant is the unwilling object of a wealthy young man's lust.
Like the former's Good-Bye, Columbus and the latter's Hunger, Kipen writes, Lahiri's work "transcends mere ethnic exoticism. In general, critics in Asia and other non-Western countries have not been as approving as have Americans.
Reviewing Interpreter of Maladies in Time International magazine, Nisid Hajari writes, "At times the three stories that deal with the souring of love … read like journal entries, or schematics to the collapse of a relationship. Their declines are almost too measured, too academic to evoke much sympathy or uncontrived sadness.
Criticism Candyce Norvell Norvell is an independent educational writer who specializes in English and literature.
In this essay, Norvell discusses the story as "the interaction between an active woman and a passive man. Women act; men react. This state of affairs is a reversal of traditional gender roles in India, the country from which both Shoba's and Shukumar's parents emigrated, and the United States.
This role reversal gives the story a strongly modern feel. Both the author and the critics who analyze her work categorize Lahiri along with other female Indian American writers whose work deals with the cultural conflicts faced by immigrants and their children.
But Lahiri's stories in general, and this one in particular, do not seem to grapple with cultural issues as much as with gender issues. The dynamic that drives "A Temporary Matter" is the interaction between an active woman and a passive man.
It is the kind of situation that today's readers would find credible and compelling whether the characters were children of immigrants or descendants of the Pilgrims. That Shoba and Shukumar are second-generation Americans of Indian heritage is incidental. They eat Indian food. And when a visit from Shoba's mother is recalled, readers learn that she is a Hindu.
But these facts have no impact on how Shoba and Shukumar respond to the loss of their child or behave toward each other. The husband and wife could just as well eat Italian food or fast food, and the visiting mother might just as easily have been a Catholic or a Jew. Shoba and Shukumar are apparently divorced from the religion and traditions of their forebears.
Far from struggling to balance two traditions, they have set themselves adrift from all traditions. They are thoroughly modern and secular, and their story could be the story of any educated thirty-something couple.
Freedom from tradition leaves Shoba and Shukumar to work out the terms of their relationship on their own. Individual personalities, free of cultural restrictions, shape their relationship and their lives. And in this marriage, that fact puts Shoba in the driver's seat. Although Shoba has been changed by the loss of her child, she has found the strength and determination to restart her life.
She goes to her job, and she even works out at a gym. She still has the will to plan ahead and to take the initiative; she simply channels her energy in new directions. Instead of stocking the pantry and planning parties, she carefully plans how to extricate herself from her marriage. She initiates a game designed to gradually open a channel of communication between Shukumar and herself that is wide enough to accommodate the message she has to deliver.
At the same time, she finds and leases an apartment for herself. Her response to trying circumstances is to set about changing them. Shukumar, on the other hand, is a passive victim of those same circumstances. He stays in bed late and does not leave the house or even brush his teeth regularly. He rarely initiates interaction with Shoba; instead, he reacts to her action. When she leaves her gym shoes and satchel in the kitchen, he moves them out of his way without saying anything to her.
When Shoba suggests that they eat by candlelight, he searches out candles and lights them. When Shoba starts the game of revealing secrets, it becomes the focus of his days.
He spends hours thinking about what she might say to him and what he should say to her that evening. While Shoba is out interacting with the world and creating a foundation for her future, Shukumar languishes.
He is engaged with neither the present nor the future. In fact, he is paralyzed. The roles in this marriage, those of the active woman and the passive man, were established long before the tragedy.
Early in the story, readers learn that Shukumar finds Shoba's ability to plan ahead astonishing. In a description of their past trips to a farmer's market, Shoba leads him through the crowds and does all the choosing, haggling, and buying. Shukumar is seen "trailing behind her with canvas bags. He had not wanted to go, but he did as she told him to.
These incidents and others set the stage for Shoba's manipulation of Shukumar during the week of the power outages. Readers know that Shoba is leading and Shukumar is following long before it is clear where they are going.
Shukumar, however, does not even realize that Shoba is leading him until the game has played out. Shukumar's passive role is not limited to his relationship with his wife. Both Shoba's and Shukumar's mothers make brief appearances in the story through recollections of their visits. Both women share Shoba's active, independent nature, and both dominate and intimidate Shukumar. Shoba's mother is an immigrant, born and brought up in a Hindu society in which wives were expected to be humble and obedient servants to their husbands.
Men led; women followed.
Shoba's mother lives in Arizona now. Perhaps not coincidentally, her husband—Shoba's father—is not mentioned. It is unclear whether he is still living. Shoba's mother comes to stay for two months after the stillbirth. Although her practice of Hinduism links her to the culture in which she was brought up, she is surprisingly modern and self-sufficient. Not only does she cook dinner every night, as Shoba once did, she also "drove herself to the supermarket.
In another of Lahiri's stories, a Hindu housewife a generation younger than Shoba's mother is not able to drive.
They even make love. Then final night comes, and the power company finishes early. They still play the game, because each has saved their bombshell for the final night. Shukumar reveals that he actually made it back from the conference and held the baby after the miscarriage.
The ending is left open. As you can see, the structure is quite complicated, but it must be this way for the most emotional resonance.
Each time he thought of that moment, the last moment he saw Shoba pregnant, it was the cab he remembered most, a station wagon, painted red with blue lettering.
It was cavernous compared to their own car. Although Shukumar was six feet tall, with hands too big ever to rest comfortably in the pockets of his jeans, he felt dwarfed in the back seat. As the cab sped down Beacon street, he imagined a day when he and Shoba might need to buy a station wagon of their own, to cart their children back and forth from music lessons and dentist appointments. First, it meanders like thought.
The other thing is that it sticks to one important detail and drills into it: But then it becomes an emotional description. This detail is important. He thinks about how he and Shoba would need a car like that for their future children. He has no idea that his wife is about to lose the baby.