The very first brilliant and interesting line in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni short story, The Disappearance reads At first when people heard about the disappearance, they didnt believe it. (1995), it captures the life story of a major character, a young woman, who is being described from her husbands point of view. This line helps us to view the lonely life that the woman lived despite being married. Prior to her disappearance and through the husbands perspective, her character as the protagonist in the story starts to be revealed.
First, she seemed to be a lonely soul. The husband says that the wife disappeared while in her normal evening walk. She was on her evening walk, after getting back from the office, she took one every day. Yes, yes, always alone, she said that was the only time for herself (Divakaruni, 1995). This shows a woman who was burdened by a loveless marriage and she opted to be alone rather than be with his husband. Also, her husband says that she would prefer to do minor extra chores around the house after her son has gone to sleep just to avoid joining her husband in the bedroom. A walk to her was a way of finding solace to forget her burden. But, the husband didnt quite understand it showing that even understanding was lacking in their marriage. A lonely soul she was indeed.
Silently, she was an abused and oppressed woman. She felt abused in her marriage. Although married, she silently would be forced to have sex. According to Divakaruni (1995), Always, She would say, I dont feel up to It, Please, not tonight, but the husband didnt mind it, he would continue having legal rape indicating that he was ignoring the feelings of his wife and in the process abusing his wife. She would struggle at first but would quit struggling and let him do what he wanted to do. From this short story, it is evident that she knew well that her excuses of not having sex would not be listened to so she cooperated as much as she could. However, she felt oppressed and abused. Also, at one point the woman wanted to go back to school, get a job or even dress in an American way but the husband would refuse claiming that he would take care of her and that she looked feminine and much prettier in the Indian clothes. This was a sign that he oppressed his wife. Therefore, it is evident from all these signs that the wife was an abused and oppressed woman.
The story reflects an unhappy and disinterested woman in a forced marriage. But, she is obliged to be in it by her Indian culture. The act of disappearing on her husband and most of all her own son shows a very desperate and unhappy woman. The fact that she sacrificed her motherly love is enough evidence that she would not take it anymore. Divakaruni (1995), states that the husband remembers the day they were getting married there had been a considering and cool look in her eyes when shed glanced up, Almost disinterested and as though she were wondering if he would make a suitable and good spouse. This statement reflects a disinterest young woman who was probably hoping for the best but from the story, she fails to get it and ends up unhappy.
Additionally, it is evident that she yearned for freedom and change. The fact that she left the marriage without any consent means that she was tired of the life she was living. In the story, Chitra says that the wife left anonymously making people believe that it was a kidnap or she was killed. Later, the husband discovers that she had taken all her jewelry from the house and the bank which suggests that she might have gone to start a new life somewhere. She even wanted to buy American clothes but the husband who is a traditional Indian man would obviously not allow it. Hence, the desire for freedom and change in her life led the wife to disappear on her husband and son.
Lastly, the story portrays the Indian culture on forced marriages. Through the views given by the husband of her wife, it is evident that woman had no opinion on issues concerning themselves. Men were dominant on making major decisions. They would try and monitor women moves all in the name of family head, love, and power. Women hardly had any space to act independently. Clearly, a woman was to be chosen during the marriage and would only hope for a working marriage failure to which they would live a miserable life leading to escapes and disappearances.
In conclusion, the disappearance of the wife in Citras short story is as a result of the oppression, abuse, unhappiness and the loveless relationship that existed silently between the two. Therefore, the characters of the wife revealed by the story comes as a result of the issues not addressed in the forced marriage.
Divakaruni, C. B. (1995). Arranged marriage: Stories. New York: Anchor Books. Read more
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