A Wifes Story by Bharati Mukherjee - Book Report/Review Example

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The main theme of Mukherjee's short story, "A Wife's Story," is the cultural transformation of the main character, Panna. She is an Indian woman who comes from a very traditional background whose life is being transformed by her assimilation into Western Culture…
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Bharati Mukherjee, "A Wife's Story" The main theme of Mukherjee's short story, "A Wife's Story," is the cultural transformation of the main character, Panna. She is an Indian woman who comes from a very traditional background whose life is being transformed by her assimilation into Western Culture. This began through education: she had an aristocratic British-style education in India and at the time of the story was enrolled in a PhD program in New York. But her physical movement to American culture accelerated the pace of change. Her alien status within American culture is driven home at the beginning of the story when she attends a performance of David Mamet's play Glenngary Glen Ross, whose characters use racist jokes and slurs to cast Indians as the 'other.' By virtue of inhabiting an Indian body, Panna is cut off form the culture she lives in, and so must construct an identity in the way she would not have had to in India.
The Indian quality of Panna's body is described with reference to the women of her family: "My mother was beaten by her mother-in-law, my grandmother, when she'd registered for French lessons at the Alliance Franaise. My grandmother, the eldest daughter of a rich zamindar, was illiterate." The three generations move further and further from Indian tradition: from illiteracy, to learning French, to taking a PhD; from the countryside, to the city, to America. Perhaps the implied reason for the beating is the mother-in-law's fear that her son's wife was seeking out partners for adultery. In any case Panna is committing adultery with the Hungarian migr Imre while she studies in New York. So her body is, as much as anything else, the agency of her change.
Panma's husband visits her in America and is desperate to take her back to India, because he fears she may be drawn into adultery (though he never suspects Imre to whom he is introduced). Her realization (rather than resolution) that she will not return with him, is her break with Indian culture. While she is waiting to make love to her husband for the last time before his return to India, "The resulting sexual episodes show that the new land has transformed her unalterably as she watches her naked body in the mirror" (Abraham 37). She sees her own body in the mirror and realizes that there are elements of her sexuality her husband does not know, aspects of her own body that she does not recognize, that she is no longer part of Indian tradition.

Works Cited
Abraham, P. A. "When East is West: A Thematic and Stylistic Analysis of Bharati Mukherjee's The Middleman and Other Stories." English and the Indian Short Story: Essays in Criticism. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2000, 35-45.

Mukherjee, Bharati. "A Wife's Story." The Middleman and Other Stories. New York: Grove, 1988, 23-40. Read More
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