Feed on

I wanted to tell Jimmy that my sister didn’t have powers. I wanted to say that her only power was the power to make everyone look, she’d had nothing, nothing to do with my father going blind, and she’d lied to us all, she’d faked it about the dog, as if it mattered whether the animal spoke, as if love were about the truth, as if he would love her less-and not more-for pretending to talk to a dog. (512)

This passage sums up exactly how the narrator feels about her sister: love, hatred, confusion, jealousy, and contempt. These are natural feelings to have towards an older sibling at one time or another, but all of these emotions change the way the narrator tells the story. She never cared to have a relationship with her sister after Jimmy’s death. Every fact that she states in this story about her sister reflects their complicated relationship more than it reflects who the sister is. I think the reason the narrator loved Jimmy was because he let her have time with her sister. She loved Jimmy because Jimmy meant that she could have a real relationship with her sister, where her voice and opinions mattered.

We’ve read a number of coming-of age stories so far this semester, among them Edward P. Jones’s “The First Day,” T.C. Boyle’s “Rara Avis,” Mary Robison’s “I Am Twenty-One,” Deborah Eisenberg’s “The Girl Who Left Her Sock on the Floor,” Mary Morris’s “The Lifeguard,” Richard Ford’s “Communist,” and Steven Millhauser’s “Behind the Blue Curtain.” Read back through these stories, and develop an idea for an essay in which you discuss two or three of the stories in relation to a specific thesis. You might consider what exactly “coming of age” means in these stories. Does it always mean the same thing? How do the protagonists change in the course of the story, and what is particularly complex or interesting about that change? How, for example, does that change affect these protagonists’ views about their life and the lives around them? Or you might address some other aspect of the stories you choose: How, for example, do different characters look back upon their coming-of-age experiences? What do they suggest they have learned from such experiences?

For Tuesday, October 24, you should place your completed essay in the Essay 2 FINAL folder on Google Drive. Make sure you name the document in this manner: YourName.Essay2.docx. And makes sure your name is on the essay itself.

This story was about Les, who is looking back at the moment he became a man. At age sixteen he has already lost his father, therefore losing a crucial male role model in his life. While he may have already lost his father, he is able to bond with Glen Baxter, his mother’s boyfriend who is both a communist and a hunter. One day, Glen Baxter decides to take Les on a hunting trip. Once on the trip, they find out they are hunting on private property. Les’s mother then puts her foot down and confronts Les in the following statement: “I just want you to know that, because that’s a crime and the law will get you for it. If you’re a man now, you’re going to have to face the consequences.” (266) At that moment, without any hesitation, Les leaves the car to hunt with Glen Baxter, therefore accepting responsibility and becoming a man.

A man in this story is classified as someone who is able to participate in typical masculine activities.These activities consist of hunting and gathering, activities that are commonly associated with males. Les, at an impressionable age, looked up to his father,  as we see in the following quote: “I like that because my father had been a labor man.” (216-2017) When a boy at that age looks up to someone, that person is considered perfect to them and will want to be like them. In the case of the story, Les wanting to go hunting is that of a “labor man” job.

Richard Ford’s  “Communist” is a coming-of-age story that expresses how wisdom and age are not necessarily linked together. One does not have to have lived a long life in order to gain wisdom from life experiences. Ford’s “Communist” also examines the complexity of human relationships, as it appertains to the strained intimacy between family members as well as romantic relationships.

And how old was I then? Sixteen. Sixteen is young but it can also be an grown man. (235)

The narrator, Les, is a fatherless, adolescent boy who is caught in the middle of his mother’s relationship with her boyfriend, Glen Baxter.  Glen is a communist a real “man’s man” whom Les, throughout most of the story, admires as a father-figure. Les does not like that his mother is around him all of the time, and like most sixteen-year-old boys, Les likes his alone time. I find it extremely ironic that Les and his mother spend much of their time together (even when it is not wanted), but Les admits that he actually knows very little about his mother, “I am forty-one years old now, and I think about that time without regret, though my mother and I never talked in that way again, and I have not heard her voice in a long, long time.” (235) Les’s mother seems to be withdrawn from the world, “but she came home most days from work and stayed inside watching television in her bedroom and drinking beers.” (216) possibly because she is depressed in her relationship with Glen. Throughout the story, the reader learns that Les’s mother does not look fondly upon her relationship with Les’s father or Glen Baxter. Rather, it seems as though she views her relationship with these men as a necessity in order to have an accessible life, especially when it comes to having a father-figure for Les.

“Hunt, kill, maim. Your father did that too.” (218)  Les’s mother has become cynical of trusting men possibly because she feels as though she has been abandoned by Les’s father after his untimely death. Les’s mother does not want Les to be so trusting of Glen when Glen offers to take him hunting. Les wants to go only because he has not ever experienced a hunt before. Although Les’s father has passed away, Les is ignorant to the concept of death and killing.

While Les and Glen are shooting geese at the lake, Glen accidentally shoots down a goose he was not aiming for. “That one’s my mistake there, I shouldn’t have shot that one, Aileen.” (230) Glen will not shoot the bird to stop its suffering because he believes that the world is a place where one has to fend for oneself and should not expect to be saved by anyone. “You don’t understand the world, Aileen… This can happen. It doesn’t matter.” (231) Glen will not shoot the bird because he sees no point in ending its suffering. He views suffering as a necessary part of life, and believes that he has no right to simply take that away from another’s life. Like Les’s mother, Glen has suffered emotionally due to certain unchanging circumstances, and because of his suffering, he has a bleak outlook on life.

In the final moment between Les and his mother, Les sees his mom as person who is not just his mother, but who is also a feminine individual whom he respects. Les has had time to get to know his mother and Glen through the subtle details of what they say or how they act. Although it goes unsaid, Les learns more about his mother and understands her better after one day of viewing her interactions with Glen than he has understood about her his whole life.

“Communist” by Richard Ford is a story about loneliness and inaction. Forty-one year old Les looks back on his adolescence—he’s lost his father; he has a mother, Aileen, who’s not too invested in parenthood; and the only other figure in his life is Glen Baxter, his mother’s flaky boyfriend. As Les tells his story, it’s clear that each of these characters suffers from feeling “remote from the world.” A young boy left to his own devices, with no structure and no reliable figure to look up to, Les adopts a carefree attitude, going with the flow and, when the situation becomes too much to handle, not caring at all. Aileen tries to fill her loneliness with other people while Glen wanders, clinging to a radical (and controversial) belief system as if this will give him a stronger sense of identity.

Even though Les recognizes his loneliness, he doesn’t utilize this sudden understanding and change. Decades later he looks back on this self-proclaimed “turning point” in his life, but he has apparently done nothing as a result. At forty-one, Les still lacks a deeper attachment to the world around him, and has gone so far as to isolate himself further from his mother. Between Ford’s “Optimist” and “Communist,” this seems to be a common theme. Like Frank, Les chooses to remain static and lonely, isolates himself from his mother, and is not truly aware of how little this “turning point” in his life actually impacted him.

This is a story about the impact of relationships on a young adolescent boy who is starting to enter the world of adulthood. Les grows up only knowing the idealized version of his father that his mother has told him. His mother spends her time watching T.V. or waitressing in town. This leaves sixteen-year-old Les to spend much of his free-time by himself. He spends his free-time boxing, a hobby that his father pursued when he was alive. When Glen Baxter enters Les’ life, he views his mother’s boyfriend as a father-figure despite the fact that they have never been alone together. Les craves the attention of Glen because he craves a father-figure. Les has not had a man, or even a woman, to show him how he should act and what a man should look like. This desperation leads him to idealize Glen. The events that took place when Glen and Les went hunting still affect Les 25 years later. Ford hints that Les could have gone to college and done more with his life had he had the proper influences guiding him. He was a boy with lots of potential and no knowledge of how to access it. Instead, he listened to the stories about his father and followed in the mythological footsteps of a man he knew nothing about.


I am forty-one years old now, and I think about that time without regret.

This story is about seeing reality in wishful situations. “Communist” by Richard Ford has three main characters Les, Aileen, and Glen. Les the narrator of the story is the son of Aileen and Glen was Aileen’s communist boyfriend. It has been two months since Aileen and Les have seen Glen and when Glen returns Aileen is not pleased to see him. Les on the other hand is happy to see him, this I believe represents childlike optimism. It is alluded to that something must have happened between Aileen and Les to have caused him to have leave initially. Les and the reader have a limited point of view regarding Glen and as to why he has been gone. Therefore we as a reader do not know a whole lot about Glen either. As a result Les in a way has allowed his imagination and limited perspective of Glen to glorify him. The white geese in my opinion represent fleeting innocence, and Glen is the harsh reality that kills innocence. As much as Les would like to believe Glen is a good person, when it comes down to it he is not, that day in November is proof of that. It was important for Les to realize that things are not black and white, there are multiple perspectives and varying realities to everything and everyone. Realizing this is a key part of growing up, but I do not entirely believe that this is a coming of age story. When we are younger we desperately want everyone to be how they appear in our heads. It is difficult when one’s idea of someone is shattered, more so the first time more than any other time. Getting older and learning to accept people for who they truly are, rather than trying to force someone into a roll that is uncharacteristic of them is one of the more difficult things in adulthood. You can save yourself a great deal of disappointment and heartache by not creating unrealistic expectations for the people in our lives.

I don’t know what I think about “Communist.” On one hand, I can see how it’s the story about the fragility of love and how easily it can be erased over a simple course of events because that part is obvious, but I get the feeling that there is something deeper under the surface. I can’t say that it’s necessarily a coming of age story because I don’t feel like Les went through something too terribly traumatic that it changed him forever. It can’t be the tale of how our narrator lost his innocence by killing something because he says clearly in the story that he’s been hunting for rabbits and pheasants before. It could be about how Glen is slowly losing his mind because he thinks everyone’s trying to kill him because he’s a Communist and how the only way he can cope with it is to hunt and kill for sport. On page 232, there’s a moment of clarity when he offers the gun to Les and says he’s ready to die which gives me the impression that he’s messed up and not coping well with it. There’s also strong undertones, that later become not so under tones, of how Les’ mother is starting to feel inadequate and desperate for love after her first husband passes. Les says that he says that he thinks that his mother may have thought that what she was doing was wrong given that Glen was younger than her, but then we see that she’s only worrying about the future and how she may believe that she may never find love again. And there has to be something symbolic about the month of November because this is the second story I’ve read by him that’s been set in that month.

All and all, this story has a lot going on and I can’t latch down on one thing to write about and I’m confused and having revelations all at the same time and I don’t know how to put anything into words properly.

“The Communist,” a short story by Richard Ford, is about how the narrator came-of-age during his first hunting experience. As he hears the geese fall from the sky, the narrator associates the sound with a human body falling. Les, the narrator, tells this story later in his life, because, it shows the first time that Les was in control of killing a living animal.

Richard Ford’s story, “The Communist” is about the complexity of family relationships and how to deal. Many of the examples of the relationships aline with the ideal of the American Dream, and the ideal family. Les is taken by his mother’s new boyfriend to go shooting, this situation is typically seen as a young, American male’s passage into manhood. Les having lost his father previously makes everyone more eager to jump on board the hunting trip. Les appears brave while shooting geese with his mother’s boyfriend, Glen, who seems more on edge with the guns when before leaving he asks Les to shoot him. Despite his involvement in Vietnam and his need for protection from whoever could come after him, it appears by his actions that he isn’t afraid of death in general just specifically of his own and the unexpectibility his life choices have made death appear to be. While the death of Les’ father was unexpected as well, he seems more adjusted to the change than Glen.

Through this Les is seeing different types of love through his Mother’s relationship with his father and Glen. She seems more desperate with Glen, having waited for him to return after disappearing and not questioning him when he returned. This was ultimately Les watching his mother lose interest in finding love, and increase her desire to not be alone, causing a lower level of her self esteem.

Do you think I’m feminine?  I’m thirty-two years old now. You don’t know what that means. But do you think I am? (324)

“I like to box,” I said. “My father did it. It’s a good thing to know.”

“I suppose you have to protect yourself too,” Glen said.

“I know how to,” I said. (222)

Richard Ford’s “Communist” is about the impact Glen Baxter leaves on the narrator, Les, and his mother, Aileen. As a coming-of-age story, “Communist” proves Les to still be naive and easily impacted by the words and actions of others. Les thinks about what his father taught him about boxing and protecting himself while Glen Baxter explains his need to carry a pistol with him at all times. This is continued throughout their hunting trip when Les, the narrator shoots the geese because Glen Baxter told him to. In Aileen’s case, Glen Baxter made the narrator’s mother question her femininity as noted at the bottom of page 234. Les is clearly impacted by Glen Baxter’s presences in his life because he is still telling the story twenty-five years later.

And how old was I then? Sixteen. Sixteen is young, but it can also be a grown man. (235)

“Communist” is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his struggles with only a mother figure in his life. Les looks back at all of the moments in his life with his mother and Glen, his mother’s then boyfriend. Les says that Glen was a communist and a hunter, which ties in to the story because Glen takes Les out hunting. On the hunting ‘adventure,’ Les learns about somethings. He learns that his mother really never loved Glen and that Glen is scared of commitment, which is what Les’ family needs right now. Les took on the role of being an adult in the family when he should not have, but he didn’t really have a choice.

And I did not know what to do then. Though it is true that what I wanted to do was to hit him, hit him as hard in the face as I could, and see him on the ground bleeding and crying and pleading for me to stop…I felt sorry for him, as though he was already a dead man. And I did not end up hitting him at all” (232).

I feel that, in this scene, the narrator is fighting with the part of him that has the motto “When you see your chance, fly on him and hit him till he falls” (226). Les ends up realizing that one can’t just fist fight any obstacle that comes their way. I believe Glen is a character placed strategically in the story to test Les and change how he views life. Glen is portrayed as a forceful man who does what he wants when he wants. He seems to not care about Les’s mother as if she is just another animal to hunt. The turning point of the story is when he shoves the gun at Les and tells him to end his life. This is a parallel to Les’s deceased father, showing the primal inclination of these men to defeat or be defeated. This can even be interpreted as Glen not being happy with his life. Hunting the geese may be a cry for help; as if he’s killing the part of himself he doesn’t like.

As they shot the geese, Les notices how they sound eerily like humans as their bodies hit the ground. After shooting one and watching it struggle in the lake, Glen says, “Maybe there’s nothing else to do with them…Maybe this is exactly what they’re put on earth for” (228-229). In these sentences, he is reflecting upon himself and his actions. It is possible that he is conflicted about the life he has been living so far.

“Communist” by Richard Ford is about the fleeting love the narrator’s mother has for Glen Baxter. This becomes very clear near the end of the story starting with Glen and the narrator’s mother’s conversation shown below.

“nobody’s going” he said “this is over with now” and my mother gave Glen a cold look then “you don’t have a heart, Glen,” she said “There is nothing to love in you. your just a son of a bitch, that’s all.” And then Glen Baxter nodded at my mother, then, as if he understood something that he had not understood before, but something that he was willing to know. (231)

What was recognized was the mother’s feelings towards him, a sign that there love life was no more. Promptly after this scene Glen responds to the message the mother gave by handing the narrator a pistol, so that he would be killed with it. This only further proves the emotions that have come to pass between the two and the heart brake caused by it. Putting a more physical expression into Glen’s understanding of how the narrator’s mother feels. ending with their once youthful love being left behind like the one goose left in the lake, the exact argument that finished there relationship .


Then as I stood in the path looking north to Queen’s Park and west to the university, I heard the voices of my family one last time. Your time has come, they said. Go, be brave. I don’t know where this voyage I have begun will end. I do not know which direction I will take. (447)

Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief” is a story depicting the stages of grief the narrator Shaila has to endure. The quotation above is of Shaila’s acceptance. Through the story, readers note each of Shaila’s friends who were impacted by the Sikh terrorist bombing of the Air India plane in June 1985, go through grief in different ways but still follow the five stages the Kübler-Ross model lays out: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While each of the characters reaches the different stages at different times, they all, with the exception of the older couple, come to acceptance by the end of the story. The older Sikh couple are still in denial and hope for their two sons’ return. After the last interaction with the Sikh couple, Shaila decides she no longer wants to work with Judith Templeton and instead works on her own to help families by donating money to charities. In turn, this helps her finish her stages of grief and reach acceptance.

“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee is a heart-wrenching short story about Shaila Bhave, a Canadian-Indian immigrant, who was one of the hundreds of people that lost their family in 1985 on Air India Flight 182. This flight was taken down by a Sikh extremist group, who were outraged at the Indian government for ordering a raid on one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines; the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This raid was due to the government wanting to suppress the Sikh rebellion by attacking militants that were held up in the shrine.
This case went into the early 2000’s when a man name Reyat, from Duncan, was sentenced to five years for one count of manslaughter. Then on Oct 27, 2000, Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the bombing. This case ran all the way until September 2006, when Air India started hearing from the families that lost their loved ones in the bombing.

Go, be brave.

In the short story “The Mangement of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee, the main character Shaila Bhave has just lost members of her family in a plane bombing. I found that there are two main themes that drive the story: culture and grief. Both of these affect not just how Bhave acts, but how the other characters, who also lost family members, react as well. While some are able to just pick up and move on, others are stuck in a cloud of mourning and grief. Bhave refers to herself as fluttering between worlds like her husband’s spirit (442). Unlike the other characters, Bhave is stuck in a state of limbo. On one hand, she is feeling haunted by the accident, and on the other hand, she still tries to move on with her life to the best of her ability which makes her different from the other characters. She does not want to run away and avoid her problems, but she still looks for the feeling that her loved ones are near in spirit. Trying to continue the life she started with her husband before he died is proving to be difficult. The culture Bhave was born into does not allow her the to remarry as she is now seen as an unlucky woman. The men who lost wives are able to remarry and reconstruct their lives, a luxury the women are not necessarily allowed. Despite this, Bhave does not seem to have great interest to remarry anyway. I believe this is because she wants to continue her life the way it would have been if her husband was not dead. But since her husband is dead, she is required to learn how to live in a new way and adapt. She must be brave and break free of her state of grief and do something with her life that her family would have been proud of. It takes a great deal of courage to break through barriers such as culture and grief, anyone who can overcome such hurtles must be a very strong person. As a result of that just for trying I believe Bhave’s family would already be proud of her.

“Once upon a time we were well brought up women; we were dutiful wives who kept our heads veiled and our voices shy and sweet.” pg 441

Although this is a fictional account of real events, “The Management of Grief” feels like an actual retelling of events that took place after the tragedy. The narrator shifts through the stages of grief in a realistic way so that a reader can personally relate to how she handled this tragic moment in her life. Though she spends a majority of the time sedated by Valium, we can still feel how she and everyone around her are being affected by the events after the bombing.

The Indian people have had their lives completely altered by this unexpected event and they’re trying to heal. Their husbands, sons, daughters, lovers, sisters, and brothers were torn away from them without warning on what was supposed to be a simple getaway. Most people are sympathetic and hand out flowers and give kind words while others, like the boil covered security guard, sees every brown person as a potential terrorist.

We see the stages of grief shift throughout the story and in the end, most people end up in a state of numbed acceptance. From one character simply refusing to sleep in the bed he shared with his wife to another character moving out the of the country entirely, everyone copes differently.

Prior to reading “The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee, I learned the story is based off of an Air India Flight 182 which crashed over the Irish Sea in 1985. All passengers had been killed, most being Hindu and Indian. The bombing was caused by an extremist group of Sikh, the youngest of the world’s religions, typically form Punjab.

“Why does God give us so much if all along He intends to take it away?” (436)

The protagonist, Shaila Bhave, loses her two sons and husband on the plane crash and is left to deal with the internal conflict of what the future may hold, religious views, and the gender roles of the society. In the Indian culture, women rely heavily on their husbands for supporting a means of living, once the man of the family has died the responsibility falls on someone who has never worked before, needing to support a family.

Shaila’s struggle through her tragic loss had similarities to “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri. Both stories addressed the importance of the first names in Indian culture, and how typically people are formally addressed by their last names, as opposed to first names. “The Namesake” shows this through the protagonist, Nikihl, conflict between an Indian name or a more American name. This also correlates to the struggle Shaila has between the Indian culture and the Canadian culture she lives in now. The struggle is shown through her daughter Pam and the continuation of traditions from a traditional Indian life. Traditions mentioned, other than addressing people by last names, is the flowers people had been told to give an Indian person on page 440. In Indian culture flowers show unity through diversity, hence why the Irish people were told to give them flowers.

The story itself connects to the title by the protagonist going through the stages of grief as the story continues; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Shaila shows this through her conflict with her daughter, Pam, and her friend, Kusum. Resulting in the acceptance of her life’s drastic change, stating “Go, be brave.”

“The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee is a story about an Indian woman, Shaila Bhave, as she copes with the loss of her family due to a terrorist attack. Told in first person present tense, I was able to better understand Shaila as she navigates her life through this tragedy right as it happens. While her perspective is certainly limited, I was still able to see the impact this attack had on her community.

In 1985, Air India Flight 182 was bombed by Sikh extremists. “The Management of Grief” captures the aftereffects of this tragedy very well. It follows Shaila through her stages of grief, while also touching lightly on prejudices that occurred within the Indian community and how multiple individuals coped. As I was reading about the bombing, I found an article (“Getting close to my son who died on Air India 182,” www.bbc.com) written by a man who had interviewed parents that had lost two sons. In this article, the mother talks about the exact moment she learned of the attack. As a scientist, she knew no one could have survived, but, as a mother, she clung to hope. Each year she and her husband visit Ireland as close to the crash site as possible, and hope that their sons will return.

I found this to be incredibly similar to Shaila’s response. Despite overwhelming evidence, she creates a scenario in which her children could have survived, until eventually she comes to terms with their deaths. While she follows the stages of grief predictably and her depression is expected, the story is no less powerful. “The Management of Grief” tells the story of one woman, but, in doing so, is able to encompass the effects this tragedy had on the entire Indo-Canadian community.

Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief” effortlessly intertwines Hindu culture into the way Shaila, the narrator, manages her grief for the loss of her family in the 1985 terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182. Hindu culture is rich with tradition; it becomes evident in the story that the narrator, and several other characters, have lost hope for the return of their loved ones. The characters struggle to find peace and balance in their lives after the tragic losses of their family members. They lose touch with their Hindu roots, and stray from their traditional way of life.

…Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsis, and atheists on that plane– were fated to die together off this beautiful bay. She learned this from a swami in Toronto.

I have my Valium. (438)

The narrator does not want to confide in a religious, Hindu educator to help her grieve from the loss of her family. The shortness of the quote mentioned above exemplifies the lack of emotion the narrator is feeling. It is almost as if the reader can feel the narrator’s determination to grieve alone.

The Hindu-Indian culture is traditionally focused on women playing a secondary role to their husbands, fathers, etc… “And for my husband? For him I let fall into the calm, glassy waters a poem I wrote in the hospital yesterday. Finally he’ll know my feelings for him” (440). This is a profound statement because the narrator expresses how it is never appropriate to show or tell one’s husband how she cares for him with words or affection. It is respectably right for a wife in the Hindu culture to express her love for her husband through respect and devotion.

As time passes, it seems as though most of the characters in the story are able to continue with their lives and accept the death of their loved ones. However, some of them, like Dr.Ranganathan, stray away from their Hindu traditions and lose hope in themselves and their faith. The narrator sees that her friends are getting remarried, and keeping up with the customs of their religion. The narrator doesn’t find solace in remarriage. She says, “I am comparatively lucky. No one here thinks of arranging a husband for an unlucky widow” (442).

Throughout the story, the narrator is unsure of her purpose, and feels lost in the world after the death of her family. Hindu culture is centered around the relationship between family and a higher being(s); now that Shaila is on her own, she feels as though she cannot see the direction in which her life will progress. However, at the end of the story, Shaila comes to a realization, one that resonates with a spiritual connection to her deceased family. “Then as I stood in the path looking north to Queen’s Park and west to the university, I heard the voices of my family one last time. Your time has come, they said. Go, be brave” (447). Shaila’s self uncertainty seems to drift away at this point in the story. She has shifted away from the dark and depressed view of her life that she experienced at the beginning of the story.  “I no longer know what we started, nor how to complete it” (446). The spiritual meeting with her family is a sign that Shaila’s time to fulfill her life’s journey has come, and she is ready to move on with her life, and start anew, keeping the memories of her family forever close to her heart.

June 23, 1985, is a day that will stay with the hearts of Indians all around the world. A plane that was on its way to London from Montreal was bombed, and every passenger lost their life that day. Many believe that Sikh extremists were the cause, and one was convicted in 2003. (www.britannica.com)

Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of  Grief” is about a woman, Shaila Bhave, who lost her husband and two sons on that flight from Montreal. Throughout this story, Shaila is trying to figure out how to live without her husband and two sons. She goes to Ireland to see where it happened and to identify the ones she lost. When she is done in Ireland, Shaila and many others go back to India, reuniting with their families and holding funerals for those they lost in the attack.  Shaila ends up staying in India for a long time with her mother. When she arrives back in Toronto, her friends are moving and doing things to help them heal from the tragic accident that changed their lives forever.

Selling one’s house and changing jobs and cities is healthy. How do I tell Judith Templeton that my family surrounds me, and that like creatures in epics, they’ve changed shapes… I cannot tell her my days, even my nights, are thrilling. (444)

Shaila is having a hard time coping with the fact that her husband and sons are gone, but she seems to struggle the most out of all of the characters. She guards herself so that people don’t know how she feels. She never wants to live without those people in her life and it’s a difficult thing for her to do. She sells her house and moves into an apartment. She feels like she is moving on but underneath she is still hurting, trying to tell herself that they will come back.

At the end of the story, she hears something tell her, “Your time has come… Go, be brave.” (447) She listens to that and begins a journey, not knowing where it will take her. Shaila is ready to begin anew and find the happiness that she had before, wherever that may be.

In “The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee, something that is never truly explained or comment on is the use of Sikh, as a noun or a adjective. Sure, it can be used as an allusion to connect the story to the Sikh bombing, an actual event on June 23, 1985. However, if that is its purpose then why have the scene on page 444:

I say to her, “They are Sikh. They will not open up to a Hindu woman.” And what I want to add is, as much as I try not to, I stiffen now at the sight of beards and turbans. I remember a time when we all trusted each other in this new country, it was only the new country we worried about.

I feel the reason why this scene is included is to show that terrorist attacks effect not just the intended target, but also others. In the case of the short story, “The Management of Grief,” Bharati Mukherjee goes to the extreme of using the Sikh, who were the ones that executed the attack, as the example of “others”. In the real Sikh bombing event, the Sikh had become a community that was being considered “evil” or immoral. Suffering backlash form the bombing, as victims of the bombing and slander from the actions of extremists.  A good comparison to the Sikh in this story is how  Muslims are portrayed today, both of which are suffering in a similar way.

However, even though it’s good to be aware of how events like the Sikh bombing affect the whole of the Sikh community. The majority of victims of terrorist attacks are those caught in the cross-fire of two ideals. In real-life, the Sikh bombing only killed 24 Indian citizens.That is only 7.3% of the victims were the intended target of this attack. A much lower number then what are narrator makes us believe with lines like “There are five other boys who look like Vinod (on that flight).”  Making it seem like there were a lot of Indians on the flight to mistake as her son. Also if, like the short story suggests, that some of the 24 Indian citizens were Sikh, then the actual targeted victim percent is even lower. That leaves about 305 people that were unintended victims of this attack in the death toll, and another couple-hundred victims of grief.

The story “The Management of Grief” is based on a terrorist bombing in 1985, when Air India Flight 182 was destroyed by a bomb and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. All passengers and crew were killed.In the story, the narrator, Shaila Bhave, has lost her husband and her two sons in the plane crash. Shaila appears to be calm on the outside, but inside she is devastated by the loss of her family.  She travels to Ireland with another grieving widow, Kusum, to identify  their families. Shaila does not identify her husband or sons because their bodies are not recovered from the ocean. She strangely finds relief. After they visit the site of the plane crash, they fly to India and Shaila spends time with her parents. During her visit, she sees a vision of her husband and decides to move on with her life. She moves into a small apartment downtown, and she does not hear the voices of of her family until the final scene of the story.

“Then as I stood in the path looking north to Queen’s Park and west to the university, I heard the voices of my family one last time. Your time has come, they said. Go, be brave. I do not know where this voyage I have begun will end. I do not know which direction I will take. I dropped the package on a park bench and started walking.” (447)

These are the final words of the story and they speak volumes, suggesting how death can affect a person and how one can move on with their life afterwards.

On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182 was bombed by Sikh radicals and killed all 329 passengers and crew. In the years that followed this tragic event, the Canadian government struggled to find those responsible for the attack. It was not until 2003 that Inderjit Singh Reyat, an Indian-Canadian citizen who was a Sikh extremist, was arrested. The inaction of the Canadian government led to unrest among the Indian-Canadian population, many of whom had fled India to escape religious and civil persecution from the riots between the Sikh and Hindu people. They felt that the government did not recognize that the terrorist organized the attack on Canadian soil.

In “The Management of Grief,” Bharati Mukherjee tells the fictional story of a woman who lost her husband and sons in the bombing of Air India Flight 182. Shaila may be a fictional character, but the story she tells is a real one. Mukherjee chose the Air India 182 tragedy to tell the story of grief for a reason. If I were Mukherjee, an Indian-Canadian citizen who lived in Montreal in 1985 when the bombing occurred, I would choose Air India Flight 182 because of the connection I felt towards this event. Despite the fact that Mukherjee did not lose any family to the terrorist attack, she still would have felt the loss within her community in Montreal. This attack was not just an attack on the plane but an attack on all Canadian citizens.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »