The short story
Alugu Subramanium (1915 – 1971)
Subramanium is a Sri Lankan writer who was born and lived in the northern province of Sri Lanka.This Short Story is taken from the short story collection “The Big Girl” published in 1964 is based on the customs and traditions in his society and he writes on the basis of his own experience.
Themes of the story
This short story is narrated in the 1st person format. And therefore the reader becomes familiar with the thoughts feelings and emotions of the narrator who helps you his experience at 1st hand. Much of the story consists of unspoken thoughts of the narrator employing the stream of conscious techniques. The story has been written as an adult but we are calling the childhood experience very rapidly.
The most important aspect of the grand sons character is his mental questioning and critical approaching, explaining what either been an ordinary ritual connected with preparations for a funeral. It is his rational output and questioning mind that probes a custom that has been long in Sri Lankan society. He is not only questioning a custom but also his uncle’s treatment of the mourners. The writer compels the reader to look at social customs and questions the adult’s behaviors through the eyes of a child.
The uncle of the story is presented as a character that follows the customs and conventions faithfully. His decisions to some of the mourners’ family highlights: Firstly the lack of mutual respect in a cast of dominated society. The story reveals that the poverty and cast issues had made at times of human; and unsympathetic: in order to highlight these issues the uncle’s character is somewhat exaggerated and it will derive that even some of another adults did not approve the way he treated the mourners and he was forced to apologize. This also reminds you that story was written in the 1916’s during a period of social transition.
In keeping with the age old customs somehow cast poor families had traditionally engaged in professional mourning as a traditional livelihood. Professional mourners were always traditionally women. The memory which conducts them at a funeral house indicates that the customs were based on firstly impressive relations and friends that the dead person was greatly missed. Secondly as it has became a custom the absence of professional mourners would indicate a lack of completeness to the ceremony and many results in critical commenting by family members. On the other hand it is seen that the professional mourners enjoy their occupation and directly skills. Even though the uncle apologize to the girls who decided to come because they fear the consequences of displeasing an important family in the village.
In your view is “Professional Mourners” a critique of social customs and conventions or is it merely standing the obvious discuss.
Formation of answering for essay type questions of short stories
1st Paragraph –
Briefly introduce the story highlighting its main themes and analyze the given question.
2nd to 3rd, 4th or more paragraphs –
In separate paragraphs discuss the different issues or aspects related to the question in discussing the relevant aspects you must quote from the story and also refer to the character.
In the final paragraph briefly state whether you agree or disagree with the question and how you have reached the conclusion.
Action and Reaction
Chithra Fernando (1931 – 1992)
Themes and Overview
The short story “Action and Reaction” highlights through the character of “Loku Nanda” that people have cravings and desires. “Loku Nanda” who is an unmarried woman wishes to protect herself as a person of priority and deep religious faiths. However through the eyes of Mahinda, nephew, it is reveled that Loku Nanda is a hypocrite.
In a predominantly Buddhist environment and culture in the society of Sri Lanka the writer highlights that some Buddhists like “Loku Nanda” care more for the precepts rather than the practice of Buddhists. “Loku Nanda” was a more interested in building temples, donating loudspeakers and organizing Pirith ceremonies. But not much focused on the practice of the Buddhism. On everyday life her treatment of Kusuma reveals that she did not practiced the precepts that she followed, Even Kusuma follows “Loku Nanda” was of paying more attention to precepts rather than practices she builds a shrine room but does not take a good care on “Loku Nanda”.
This short story reveals the cast and the class system still deeply entrenched in our society. This short story was published in 1983and reminds us the deeps in our society still conscious of these superiorities. “Loku Nanda” does not want to adopt Kusuma at a daughter’s sense because her father is a today trapper. But at the end of the story when she is totally dependent of Kusuma she admits that Kusuma is “like a daughter to her”.
The story highlights the extent to selfishness as a spinster decides to bring up a servant in the selfish how that she would lack after in her old days. Out of gratitude in her selfishness desire to retain Kusuma she prevents her from getting her from getting married and she brings it to her suffering. She denies Kusuma on all her basic rights such as Education, Freedom and Leisure. Kusuma grows up experiencing selfishness and in terms she also turns out to be selfish and “Loku Nanda” becomes a victim of Kusuma’s selfishness.
The title of the short story is in keeping with “Karmic Law”. Which it is believed according to Buddhism, that your next life will be desired by the good deeds you perform on this life. “Loku Nanda” fails to understand that this Buddhist motive is more important than deeds in accumulating merit.
The mentions that her desire is to continue her reborn and hopefully to enjoy a similarly a good life it is her hope that her good deeds will help her to be reborn as she desires. The story reveals to you that “Loku Nanda” is believed to be a good Buddhist that she does not go to understand it at all as she has chosen to interpret. Even her family members do not appear to have understood this aspect in the way than the narrator, Mahinda, has understood.
“Loku Nanda” portrays as a self wiliest character and therefore beyond reproach she is portrayal as a conventional spinster in our society. But what is the difference is that her brothers and sister are not perceptive of which the story also makes varied suggestions about the spinster in traditional society but also does not beyond allusion the render is left ponder.
The story also discusses the theme of servant hood in Sri Lankan society. The story reveals through the years of Mahinda and Mala about the denial of Kusuma’s rights as a child. She is denied the rights of education and freedom. She has become a virtual slave of the modern day to “Loku Nanda” with the children of her own age go to school. She has to spend her time sewing, polishing furniture and knitting. It also highlights that the poverty is the main factor for any quality. By age is being illegally employed and highlights also the issue of child labour hood. Therefore the most important part of the story is that the denial of the children’s rights and violation of labour laws is done by a practitioner of Buddhism. This highlights the main theme of the short story which are “Loku Nanda” s hypocrisy and self righteousness and obviousness of the society. The story reveals that society does not critically evaluate the conduct as a result “Loku Nanda” is to be exemplified to her nephews and nieces. However this story is seemed through the eyes of Mahinda who is the narrator of the story and as a child of new generation he proves to be smarter than the adults at the same time this reveals how the previous generation (Parent’s generation) tended to think within conventional structures. Throughout in the minds of Mahinda and Mala seek radically change the way society thinks and acts.
The reality has revealed invitingly by Mahinda that “Loku Nanda” is a frustrated spinster who is obviously concealing her frustration due to the social responsibility of the role. In Mahinda’s father’s family “Loku Nanda” and “Punchi Nanda” are both spinsters. The story does not reveal any valid reason for “spinsterhood” and views the reader to fonder on the choice of life style. For Kusuma’s spinster hood was not a choice but a factor determine by her poverty. “Loku Nanda” in her frustration scheme to protect a positive image of her personality and therefore chosen to present herself as a very religious personality. But Mahinda through the typical character trains of a spinster. Therefore the short story also reveals with the social aspect of a spinster. Through the character of Kusuma he sees her frustration, like Loku Nanda earlier. Being never married as also resulted in her talking of refuge in the religious life. To give a relevance and importance in the family.
Discuss “Action and Reactions as a critique of customs in Sri Lankan society.
Hills like White Elephants
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
The writer presents the stormy at a symbolic point to suggest to the reader some of the under pinning of the stormy the title “Hills like White Elephants” conveys several ideas. The whiteness is associated to show in terms represents the death of nature. It represents the consequence of growth, fulfilled and prosperity on the overhand idiomatically a white elephant represents something that is useless, of no relevance, meaning or value. As the story deals with issues like abortion, the lack of commitment and the hollowness of the relationship this is symbolically conveys through the title of the short story. These feels of grains represent prosperity and fulfillment as well as fertility. The very opposite of what the hills represents the reader that prosperity and happiness are based on the individual choices. The hills represent the obstacles.
The story revolves around a short period of time between their arrival of the railway station and their departure by train. The writer has used languages economically and the story is a good example of impressionistic write.
The American is one of the main characters in the short story. According to the story it appears that he is in a relationship with a girl called “Jig” whose nationality is not known. The American in the case of the story is found to be travelling across Spain with his partner Jig. Spain is a popular destination for budget travelers in the west and their journey reveals us their social background and life style for the conversation it is revealed that Jig is expecting a child and the American persuades her to have an abortion. It appears that she is in favor of having a child. When he asks her to perform the abortion he sends to the thing that bothers us if the only thing that made them unhappy. Later in the story he says “I know lot of people have done it” can goes on to say that afterwards they were also having. The irony in the American’s verse is that his arrogance will actually make them happy and he is trying to persuade the girl to do so.
Hemingway waits to portray the young man as a man who is looking for pleasure, has only got materialistic values and only thinks in a short term. Their life styles and conversations reveal that they are only looking for a thing in external things such as travelling, adventuring, trying out new restaurants and drinks to keep them happily. And that their friendship was based on a physical relationship.
Jig is one of the main characters of the short story she is in a relationship with him. According to the story, it appears that she is more romantic. She believes, knowing family life in searching happiness beyond material things and she accuses the American “Of not thinking about her.” She feels that he doesn’t care because he is trying to persuade her to do an abortion and he doesn’t seem to really think about her. How she feels she finally asks him to stop seeking because she feels he wants to understand or doesn’t want to understand Jig portrays a more emotional and also having more romantic vision of life. What is clear for the story that it’s a goal she is persuaded as a kind of character who will eventually accept what her partner wants her character is persuaded it’s contracts to the character of an reminds us that people did not deserve that American’s like character.
In which way the title of the story “Hills like White Elephants” related to the themes of the short story.
The Boarding House
James Joyce (1882 – 1941)
Themes and Overview
In “Boarding House” Joyce shows us that in a strongly religious and culturally dominant environment the parents and elders play a prominent role as the enforcer of moral censure for example when Polly begins to associate closely with Mrs. Mooney who gives interview. The writer says “She dealt with moral problems as the cleaver deals with meat”. It is said later in the story “She had all the weight of social opinions on her side”. In this story Mrs. Mooney puts a pressure on Mr. Doran to marry Polly. It is clear from the story that Mr. Doran was not dealt to marry Polly. But Mrs. Mooney reminds him of the social censure. He is 34 of age therefore that youth could not be pleaded as its excuse. Since he was a man who has seen something of the world, He’d simply taken the advantage of Polly’s youth and inexperience: That was evident. Mr. Doran reflects on the situation and thinks “The affair would become to be taken off and thinks of and his employer would be certain to hear of it”.
The social centre is also explained with other examples in the story. For example Mr. Doran thinks “But the family would look down her. First of all there is a disreputable father and then her mother’s boarding house beginning to get a certain fain.
At the end of the story Mr. Doran reluctantly agrees to marry Polly for fear of moral censure. It is said in the story that Mr. Doran “Attained his religious duties” therefore it could be anticipated that religious and moral pleasure would compel Mr. Doran to marry Polly. The story reveals to us that Mr. Doran was been judged both by the boarding house and also in his work place and that he was under pressure to do what society expected from him. It is also clear that Mrs. Mooney and her children are also judge by society and were subjected to the social censure.
Other themes of the story
Mrs. Mooney is not simply playing a role of mistress of a boarding house and mother of Polly and Jack. In the short story she represents the adult in the Irish society. Joyce has revealed to us that in a society where religion and tradition is dominant in adult raise a central role in ensuring that the young generation falling in love with social expectations.
Mrs. Mooney is herself a victim of the society made her unsuccessful marriage and being compelled in the circumstances to play a main role. But she appears be strongly committed to her perpetuate the customs and traditions. As a middle class mother she looks for marriage of her daughter in terms of social sensitivity and financial stability.
The story also tells us that Mrs. Mooney was a scheming crafty and cunning woman the manner which she promotes her daughter interesting Mr. Doran. The story says that “She governed the boarding house cunningly and firmly. The story also states “All the resident young men spoken if her as the “Madam”. The view of the term is that had all visions not so moral conduct life in the boarding house. Besides both Mooney’s children are describe as not been very morally acceptable. Jack is described as a “Hard Case” and Polly’s conduct was questionable therefore the morality and the manner she bought up her children the way she managed the boarding house does not present a very moral picture of the adult and therefore calls the question a conduct of adults.
The story tells us that Polly as 19 and that she is “handy with the mits” and they told later her that she is interrupted in a particular border. What is clear in the story is that it was Polly who made strong adherence towards Mr. Doran with knowledge that she had approved his money.
Mr. Doran is presented in the story as a young conformist it is said the story “As a young man who had some wild oats” of course he had boasted of his free thinking and denied his existence with girl to his companions in public houses. But also the important thing that says when Mrs. Mooney is comprising and asks him to marry her daughter he reluctantly agrees to do so because he is afraid of the consequences at his work place and in the society but he is also conscious on the fact that Polly‘s family will not be acceptable to his family.
The moral paralysis in the short story is brought out through the character of Mr. Doran.
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