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To begin with, let us state that the story under consideration is the short story under the title “The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee. She is and outstanding American writer who was awarded a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1988 for her book “The Middleman and Other Stories.” The stories are known for their engaging plots, well-thought structures and author’s writing style. We should admit that the story under consideration is a remarkable piece of writing that deserves our attention.
It is the only story about immigrants in Canada in her collection of books. In “The Management of Grief,” Mukherjee analyzes the catastrophe that is based on the 1985 terrorist bombing of an Air India jet occupied mainly by Indian immigrants that live in Canada. “The Management of Grief” analysis essay shall define the main lesson from the story by Bharati Mukherjee.
Short Story Analysis: Critical Review
The story uses a first-person narrative, and it makes it moving and realistic. It is a mixture of narration and dialogue. The text abounds in specific terms, naming traditional Indian clothes and dishes. This creates a realistic atmosphere and makes the understanding of the theme easier for the reader. We feel as if we were members of their community of immigrants ourselves. So, the setting is the Indian community in Toronto struck by a heavy loss.
The “The Management of Grief” theme may be observed in the title; that is why we can say that it is suggestive. “The Management of Grief” tells us there exists such grief that every person has to face sooner or later. It is the death of our near and dear people, people who represent all lovely qualities of life for us, people who are the sense of our lives.
And our task is to accept and manage this grief properly, but for the “The Management of Grief” characters, this is even more complicated because they live in a foreign country with different traditions and mentality.
The message of the story can be formulated like this: every person is free to decide how to act in his life. The most important thing is peace in our soul that will come sooner or later, even if we have experienced severe grief. We have to look for the answers in our soul, not in the traditions and customs of our country.
As we have already mentioned, the story is told in the first person. The storyteller is Shaila Bhave, a Hindu Canadian who knows that both her husband, Vikram, and her two sons were on the cursed plane. She is the narrator and the protagonist at the same time, so the action unfolds around her.
Shaila makes us feel her grief. It is natural that tears may well up in our eyes while reading. Speaking about other characters of the story, we should mention Kusum, who is opposed to Shaila. Kusum follows all Indian traditions and observes the morning procedure while Shaila chooses to struggle against oppressive traditions, and she rejects them because she is a woman of the new world. Josna Rege says that “Each of the female protagonists of Mukherjee’s … recent novels is a woman who continually “remakes herself” (Rege 399).
And Shaila is a real exception to the rule. She is a unique woman who is not like other Indian women. We would say that she is instead an American or European woman: strong, struggling, intelligent, with broad scope and rich inner world.
“The Management of Grief”: Summary
The first two pages give us the idea of Indian values. It becomes clear from the very outset, from the opening sentence: “A woman I don’t know is boiling tea the Indian way in my kitchen” (Selvadurai 91).
From the short story analysis, it is evident that the storyteller depicts with much detail the grief and sorrow of those who have experienced this tragedy using such word combinations as “monstrously pregnant” (Selvadurai 91) and “deadening quiet” (Selvadurai 92). The atmosphere becomes more and more tense, and we can see that among all those people who have come to help, Shaila wants to scream.
In this part of the story, where we also get acquainted with Pam, Kusum’s daughter, who stayed alive, because her younger sister had flown instead of her. Here we see misunderstanding between the mother and the daughter as Pam is a westernized teenager, and that is the reason for their detachment. She is closer to Shaila than to her mother.
In the development of action that covers the major part of the text, we can see Shaila’s meeting with a representative of the provincial government, Judith Templeton. Shaila goes to the coast of Ireland to look once again at that very place, where the crash of the Air India jet took place.
She is accompanied by Kusum and several more mourners, who grieve too much, but still, have to identify the bodies. Here the atmosphere is very tragic. The mother cannot accept the reality, and she still thinks that she did not lose her family, because the boy on the photo does not look like her son and, moreover, he is an excellent swimmer so that he can be alive. It is tough to be the witness of the tragedy of a woman who has lost her children.
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Then we come to know that Shaila decided to return to India, and there she understood that she had to go back to Canada. This is the climax of the story. We see that the woman has chosen the right way, though she is still not sure and wants to ask her family for advice.
“The Management of Grief”: Analysis Conclusion
To conclude, let us say that Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief” is a tragic and melancholic story, but after all, it creates the impression of an open door, that is the optimistic note of the story. A person who manages the grief will never be alone.
Rege, Josna. “Bharati Mukherjee (1940– ).” The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story. Ed. Blanche H. Gelfant and Lawrence Graver. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Selvadurai, Shyam. Story-Wallah: short fiction from South Asian writers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005.