Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “The Disappearance”

The first interesting fact about Divakaruni’s short story, “The Disappearance” is that the story is told from the husband’s point of view. Surprisingly, he does not realize that he abused his wife for years prior to her disappearance. In fact, I wonder if he does not realize it or simply doesn’t want to admit the truth?

The husband is portrayed as a very traditional Indian male. He is conservative, patriarchal, and very old-fashioned. Being in an arranged marriage, his wife doesn’t have much choice but to obey and play by her husband’s rules or leave their home. Reminiscing about the day he first saw his future wife, he says, “But when she’d glanced up there had been a cool, considering look in her eyes. Almost disinterested, almost as though she were wondering if he would make a suitable spouse”. These two sentences foreshadow what we learn later in the story, that she is not kidnapped or murdered. She simply doesn’t love her husband and feels abused in her marriage. Her husband even says how she would always find extra chores around the house when their son goes to bed to purposely avoid getting in bed with him. However, being selfish and focused exclusively on his own needs, he would force her to have sex with him. Sounds almost like a “legal rape”, doesn’t it? The fact that she leaves her loving boy as well indicates to what extreme she suffers in their loveless marriage. She decides to sacrifice her motherly love to escape from her own “imprisonment.” I cannot blame her for her actions after learning the details from their marriage. I can only imagine the horror she experiences living in a modern American society but being forced to live as if she never had left Calcutta. She is torn between the two cultures, essentially very different.

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One response to “Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “The Disappearance”

  1. I wonder, too, if some part of the husband knows what he has done. I also agree that she seems to be imprisoned. Great response!

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