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Portrayal of Unresolved Grief in A Temporary Matter: Critical Analysis

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In the short story “A Temporary Matter’ by Lahiri Jhumpa, a young Indian couple, Shukumar and Shoba, suffer from unresolved grief. The couple have been married for a few years and were about to have their first baby. However, three weeks before the baby’s due date Shoba went into early labor and suffered a stillbirth while Shukumur was away. Both the husband and wife grieve for their baby in very different inhibitions that prevent them from moving forward with their life and marriage. Shukumur feels guilty for not being present during his wife’s labor which makes him unable to grieve and eventually costs him his marriage. Through Sukumar’s point of view the author points out the part that guilt plays in a grieving process and focusing too hard on one’s role during a tragic event can ultimately prevent people from moving on in a healthy way.

Shukumar feels guilty for his absence during the time of his child’s birth. Before the baby was born, he made plans to attend a conference in Baltimore. Since the due date was still three weeks away Shoba gave him her blessings and encouraged him to go even though he insisted that he “hadn’t wanted to go”. He remembers the moment he saw her last pregnant, “Each time he thought of that moment, it was the cab he remembered most, a station wagon, painted red with blue lettering.” Shukumar remembers the cab so clearly in his mind. He sees it as the instant he made the wrong decision and the moment that keeps replaying in his mind “each time” he tries to remember his wife pregnant. Shukumar’s decision of going into that cab and leaving Shoba and his baby, prevented him from being able to grieve and ultimately costing him his marriage.

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After his child’s death, Shukumar loses interest in everything. His inner conflict and the guilt he feels causes him to retreat inward and have no desire to leave the house or socialize, especially not with Shoba. He admits that “nothing is pushing” him anymore and he has no desire in leaving the house “not even to get the mail, or to buy fruit or wine at the stores by the trolley stop.” Shukunmar has withdrawn from the world and refuses to leave the house. He has no concentration or energy to make progress on his dissertation. He even feels so uncomfortable near Shoba “that he fear(s) that putting on a record in his own house might be rude.” Showing that his grief has led him to withdraw from his wife and hide in the nursery where he knows that Shoba would not come in. He provides no comfort for Shoba and feels the need to hide from her. Shukumar’s sadness has drowned all of his motivation to go about his daily life and moving forward with Shoba.

The guilt Shukumar feels about his dead child is very real, yet he never voices his thoughts out loud. The guilt he feels for missing his baby’s birth prevents him from confronting his grief directly and ruining his marriage. Lahiri points out how losing a child can impact families and the part that guilt plays in a grieving process manifesting that focusing too hard on one’s role during a tragic event can ultimately prevent people from moving on with their lives in a healthy way.

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Portrayal of Unresolved Grief in A Temporary Matter: Critical Analysis. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/portrayal-of-unresolved-grief-in-a-temporary-matter-critical-analysis/
“Portrayal of Unresolved Grief in A Temporary Matter: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/portrayal-of-unresolved-grief-in-a-temporary-matter-critical-analysis/
Portrayal of Unresolved Grief in A Temporary Matter: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/portrayal-of-unresolved-grief-in-a-temporary-matter-critical-analysis/> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
Portrayal of Unresolved Grief in A Temporary Matter: Critical Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/portrayal-of-unresolved-grief-in-a-temporary-matter-critical-analysis/
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